Keeping Your Motivation High

It’s no secret; we exist in an ever-changing world. We have all heard, and have probably even used, the phrase ‘the only constant is change’. In today’s challenging business environment of budget cuts, resource constraints and standardisation, one main question remains at the top of my mind. How do we stay inspired and motivated by what we do? Let’s be honest; it’s one thing to put in your time from 9-5 (does this even exist anymore?) and collect a good paycheck, but it’s a whole different story when you can do this happily and even gain satisfaction from your daily contributions.

A bit about me: I am now an expat living in France, having chosen to change a number of things in my life in order to take the next step, personally, with my other half. Sounds dreamy, right? Well I have to admit that I don’t spend my days walking the Seine, touring the Louvre and enjoying pastries and espresso on the most posh of Parisian terraces. What I have done is taken the time to specifically reflect on this subject, and am sharing in this posting the four ways in which I continue to drive myself forward professionally, with pleasure and grace.

1) Make it personal

Many people say that mixing personal with professional is a bad thing; I disagree. It was just three weeks after my arrival in France that I received word of my father’s diagnosis with prostate cancer. I was devastated. Coincidentally, or not, I received the news while attending a product training course in Hamburg, Germany as part of my on-boarding. I work in the medical field, now in a position managing medical devices used in surgery, and had been spending the last three weeks focusing solely on understanding our corporation’s focus on oncology and the clinical specialties in which we have chosen to invest. I knew more than I wanted to at that very moment in time. Everything all of a sudden became very personal and struck a new chord with me.

It was not until after that first long night of tears and reconsideration that I knew I needed to, and wanted to, shift my mindset. This news, along with the will and desire to do everything that I could to support my dad through this time, became my driver. He is now with me every day as I wake up and get ready to go to the office, attend a conference, meet a customer, talk to a colleague. I have seen and experienced first-hand that what I do matters. I am one person that makes a difference. My dad is one patient, but I now very well understand that there are thousands of others every day that need me, that need us, to keep on keeping on. Each and every one of you has a connection between your personal and professional life that I ask you to identify and not ignore. I promise that it will become a source of pride and reason. Thank you, dad.

2) Get out of the ivory tower

For those of you who have met me, you have probably heard the story of my experience in the neurological operating room in support of a patient who was fighting a recurring brain tumour. I had a field marketing position at the time and was invited to join the out-of-town case with one of our sales agents as a learning experience, and to engage with a receptive surgical team. As per the case plan and briefing I knew that the surgeon planned to perform the operation using a number of our devices, which we were there to support, but this case was going to be different from the others. In order to ensure that only cancerous tissue was removed, the patient was going to be kept awake during the procedure in order to respond to simulation and provide feedback throughout the operation. It is very difficult for me to explain to you the magic of the treatment that was happening in front of my eyes. A young man, my age, is lying in front of you, so brave and fighting for each moment and each day. And you, YOU are there with the knowledge and products that everyone is trusting and believing in so that he can experience another day in this world. What a humbling moment; one that I think about often and that never fails to put everything in perspective.

This was an extremely long case for everyone. It was about seven hours into the procedure when the young man finally admitted to his fatigue and asked if it was OK to close his eyes. The operating room team acknowledged his bravery and contribution, and agreed that it was time for him to rest. The next words that came out of his mouth will stay with me forever. “I know that there are many people in this room right now, and at this moment your focus and efforts are solely on helping me. I cannot see you and may not ever have the chance to meet you so please accept my thanks for all you do and all you have done for me.” Even masked you cannot hide your emotions in a moment like that. You just feel.  And it was then, standing and tearing up in the operating room, that this gentleman reinforced what matters and that you make a difference.    

Lesson learned – we will never ever clear our inbox or free ourselves from all of the administrative tasks that are required of us. But I ask you, please, if you have the chance to get out of the office and feel your impact first-hand, don’t hesitate for a moment to open up Outlook, change your day to purple and make it happen.

3) Be hands-on

Another way that I have found the ability to connect with what I do professionally is to donate some of my free time to charities or organisations that are aligned not only with what I do on a day-to-day basis but also my personal beliefs. An example that I’d like to share with you is from my time in Canada when I volunteered for Herbie Day. It was as simple as a connection with the words on their website.

‘Where they live shouldn't determine if they live. Every year, The Herbie Fund enables approximately 30 children from around the world to receive life-saving medical care at SickKids (Toronto, Canada).’

After being in contact with the event organiser, I gained a much better understanding of how the charity day was organised and the type of help that they would be asking for from their volunteers. This then stimulated another thought; what about extending the offering of support to my full team and making it something we could all contribute to together?  

The day was sunny, but it wasn’t the weather that made it heart-warming. Our entire neurological team dedicated ourselves fully to Herbie Day, to the children who need access to the care, support and medical resources that we could provide. Their lives depended on it. As insignificant as it may seem to you to work a concession stand for the day, flip some burgers or speak to the person next to you and ask for their support by way of a donation, I can tell you that it is not. 30 children, 30 lives saved, 30 families who will live differently forever. Put yourself out there and see what you’re capable of contributing to!  

4) Mentor – find one and be one!

If you attend networking events, corporate talks or career advancement seminars, one topic that never fails to surface is that of mentorship. Now, I have had the time over the last 10 years to consider the role that mentors have had in my life and their influence on my future. Some came to me naturally through my career path and others were selectively approached. Regardless of how the connection was made, there is no arguing the benefit of their support in true and genuine consideration of my well-being. These are the people who get to know you, what makes you tick and thrive, and really listen to your ambitions and longer-term intentions. It is a relationship where you welcome kind judgment, one where the constructive feedback comes fully accepted and respected. These people are a part of you and have had a true hand in the creation of who you have become.  

All relationships take work, and this sort especially needs to be pursued and maintained with your full attention. In line with this, one-way relationships are almost impossible to maintain. Keep in mind that it is up to you to find ways to contribute back, share from your side so that the investment is mutual. You will see the benefits in your life of having a true mentor. Speaking from personal experience, I would not be writing this blog from my apartment in the 15th arrondissement of Paris if it wasn’t for you (and ‘you’ know who you are).

In closing, with inspired workers we keep a positive work culture. Encourage yourself, your colleagues and your teams to find a way to identify. Make time to include things in your schedule that will gratify you and remind you of the true reason why you do all you do. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness.         

Sarah Bureau


Sarah Bureau is Strategic Programs Manager, EMEA at Johnson & Johnson. She finds purpose in having stories to share about her life that exist outside her resume.