Advice from Spill's therapists
Willingly slow down and find acceptanceFind ways to enrich your days and weeksConsider taking time off workRelated resources
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Feeling unfulfilled and unmotivated at work

Spill's qualified therapists answer real questions from employees struggling with motivation.

I'm feeling unfulfilled in my professional life and also highly unmotivated. The company has been through some hard times recently but I just don't have the drive and the passion to go above and beyond to succeed. I don't know what I can do to get back on track.

Our first therapist suggests...

Willingly slow down and find acceptance

Lay a piece of paper in front of you in landscape.

Draw a line from one side of the paper to the other, right across the middle. This line represents your entire life. Let’s say for the purposes of the exercise that you live for 100 years.

Now imagine how much of the line you would need to mark if I asked you to highlight the duration of the way you are currently feeling about your work. It would be scarcely more than a dot on the line.

Is it reasonable for you to expect yourself to go “above and beyond” constantly, all the way through your working life?

What if letting go for a while and “drifting” a little were the surest route back to some level of certainty over what you want?

Stand for a while in this void where it seems impossible to work out what you want and maybe even how you would get it if you knew. It will be uncomfortable to stand there but the longer you can tolerate it and the more time you are willing to invest in reflecting on what you want from your career instead of forging ahead regardless the more likely you are to eventually head off in a direction that feels congruent with who you really are.

When you have been through difficult times with your company it has an impact on you. When things begin to settle you start to question if what you have is really what you still want. It may not be, but you don’t need to rush yourself forward to that conclusion.

Perhaps spend a bit of time thinking about what you do want from your career and then compare that with what you have now and can reasonably expect to achieve where you are.

It will be in the willingness to slow down and accept that things feel dislocated that they eventually fall back into place.

For a while at least, trust your instincts and be patient with yourself until something begins to shift.

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Our second therapist suggests...

Find ways to enrich your days and weeks

Our energy and motivation is such an important part of how we show up in the world so I totally understand why you’ve asked this question. It’s worth looking at some aspects that affect our emotional exhaustion at work and making sure they are in place for you.

These include:

  • Demand (I can manage what is expected)
  • Control (I have agency and know what to do and what I offer)
  • Support (I know who is there to help me)

I wonder how these areas feel to you and which ones need increasing or decreasing? If your company has been through hard times recently, it’s likely that they have all shifted down a little (or a lot). Demand may have increased (your workload has gone up), control decreased (feels less secure or new demands create more confusion), and support may be lower (less staff or less engaged staff). This may be worth exploring with a therapist  and then an appropriate person at work to figure out what you need to firm up some of these areas up going forwards.

What is in your control right now is your own energy, so what can you do if you notice it’s depleted or low? One obvious starting point is to look at how you build in breaks at work or transition from one meeting/task to another. An effective break is doing something totally different to the task we were doing before. So an online call to sitting on Instagram wouldn’t be felt as a break, but taking a walk, taking a few deep breaths or sitting outside with a coffee would be. Our minds can only focus for so long before they become exhausted; our cognitive energy needs recharging throughout the day. Sometimes we are socially depleted so sitting in the toilet for five minutes (where we don’t have to respond to anyone) can be enough to replenish our social energy. Is your free time restorative? Does it offer you the activities you enjoy and a chance to reignite yourself or restore any drained energy, like connecting with others, music, creativity, sports, debate, nature, etc?

Also look after your boundaries — do you have set work times and switch on and off from work, or do you work all hours so it affects other parts of your life?

Thinking about your whole self, are you where you want to be in your life? What makes you sparkle in your world? Make sure you have enriching times in your day and week that nourish you. This may be through your work and sense of purpose, or this may be through our hobbies or social connections. Perhaps a session with a therapist to explore this further may be helpful? Or a good chat with a mate/partner?

You have brilliantly noticed that things cannot continue as they are, however you also have the power to do something about it.

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Our third therapist suggests...

Consider taking time off work

You mention difficult times at your company and how this has led to a loss of drive and passion. I am wondering if maybe you are experiencing burnout or low mood as a result of issues at work. Both burnout and low mood may result in a decrease in motivation and fatigue.

The following are tips to help you get back on track:

  • Consider taking time off work to recover. If you are able to take time off, do things you enjoy and that help you to relax. This may be things like exercise, going somewhere new, massage or doing something creative like playing an instrument. If you can’t take time off, then look for ways to simplify life and reduce responsibilities. This may mean delegating tasks or asking for help.
  • After time off or a period of reduced workload you may find that your perspective changes. Burnout or low mood may lead to negative thoughts. You may find that these thoughts lift naturally with self-care.
  • If you still feel unfulfilled, reflect on what is making you feel this way at work. What do you wish was different? Consider how much control you have over factors that are making you unhappy. Is there anything you can do about them? What are the options? Whose help would you need?
  • Continue relaxation practices and avoid anything that makes matters worse such as drinking, arguments, spending too much money, staying up late or not eating enough.
  • You could also visit your GP if you are concerned about your mental health.
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