Not feeling the fire that once ignited your professional passion? In a career rut? Or just experiencing a seasonal dip in morale? Nearly every woman leader loses her inspiration at one time or another. Here’s help to rediscover it.
The reasons and timing vary, but women sometimes get sidetracked when they lose touch with what inspires them to succeed.
The key to recovery is recognizing when you’ve lost your inspiration and taking steps to rebound quickly.
“When we’re inspired, our work hums. We have a sense of purpose, buoyed by the feeling that our talents are being put to good use. We’re doing what we should be doing,” says Kristi Hedges, a leadership coach and author of The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day. “And then, just like that, inspiration evaporates.
“Inspiration can be frustratingly fleeting and difficult to recover when lost,” Hedges says. “Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job you love, it’s common to go through lengthy periods where you need to dig deeper to feel excited about your work.”
Whether the inspiration setback was caused by a single incident, a bigger situation, one person or your own choices, you don’t want it to derail you for long.
Try these four tactics to rediscover your inspiration at work.
When women in leadership experience a kick to their mentality and drive, they often get stuck. They go through the motions of their work and don’t try to get out of the rut.
“But inaction is your enemy in this effort,” Hedges says. “Don’t wait for a flash of insight to strike before making changes.”
Your behavior affects how you think and feel. So if you do different things, you’ll feel different things.
Tactic: Pick a new short-term project and attainable goal outside of your normal duties – something different than you’ve done or achieved in the past. A small win in an area that expands your mind and/or capabilities can ignite your overall professional passion again.
2. Create a routine
You wouldn’t be in a leadership role if you haven’t excelled in your field. But that excellence has its drawbacks: People who move out of the learning mode – and more into teacher and mentor mode – might start to believe they’re experts and become more close-minded. In what’s called “earned dogmatism,” people are less likely to pursue new information and fresh experiences, which are inspiring.
So you want to build learning and new experiences into your routine.
Tactics: Schedule enough reading time so you can finish a business book every six weeks. Join industry or professional associations and attend regular events (even better, offer to present at them).
3. Check your circle
The company you keep affects your energy and mood. Some people will work against your inspiration: They downplay or sabotage your work. Some people will keep you at status quo: They speak and work with you about the same topics week after week. Others will reinforce your beliefs: They encourage your ideas and back your efforts.
How much time do you spend in the company of each group? You want to spend the most time with those who reinforce your beliefs – but not all of it because that could lead to them becoming part of your status-quo crowd.
Tactic: Make a point to meet and connect with new people who are at or above your age and professional level to find new role models. You don’t have to establish deep relationships with them. Look for people who have qualities you admire. Meet periodically or just observe them from a distance for inspiration.
4. Narrow your choices
Sometimes women in leadership lose their inspiration because they’re flat-out overwhelmed. Too many options – from how to balance the budget to where to take vacation – can be paralyzing. So you do nothing.
When that happens, the most effective step is to narrow your options. Then it’s easier to act and regain momentum.
Tactic: When you feel stuck, write all the options you have for the biggest issues on your plate. Select the three you’re most excited about in order. Give yourself time to work toward those three.
Women won’t always feel inspired – after all, there are days that binging on Game of Thrones and ordering out is enough.
But inspiration plays a critical role in your career success: It allows you to see new possibilities, be open to outside influences and feel energized and appreciated. So it’s important to stay aware of your level of inspiration and what you can do maintain or raise it.