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Motivation at Work: 7 Days of Kwanzaa in Our Professional Life

Are you looking for extra motivation at work?

Or do you want to start incorporating new morals and values in your professional life? Kwanzaa is the perfect time to reflect on faith, community, friends and family, co-workers and the impact we have at work.

Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas (Dec. 26) and ends on New Year’s Day. It is a weeklong celebration honoring African beliefs and traditions. The holiday focuses on seven principles – Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani.

Each day, Kwanzaa practitioners celebrate each of them by lighting a green or red candle (black for the first day), meditating on values and principles and looking for ways to incorporate those teachings into their daily life. As professionals, we can focus on these principles and incorporate them at work and home. They can help with getting motivated at work, provide inspiration and so much more.

Umoja – Creating unity at work.

Umoja starts at home and trickles into your professional life. Achieving unity with your co-workers isn’t always easy. Each person has their own opinions, perspectives and personality traits. Building unity among team members who are so different requires patience, dedication and more than a little understanding.

Before we can connect with and understand our teammates, we must first accept them as individuals. This means putting aside preconceived notions and unfair judgements. Your co-worker in the next office may avoid the team or stay quiet during meetings. But are they really antisocial or uninterested? They may simply be nervous around others and communicate awkwardly. Try to understand the person a little better. Invite them to lunch or strike up a simple conversation.

Kujichagulia – Increasing your self-determination.

Consider the accomplishments we can make, if only we had the motivation to move forward. We often place more value and focus on hard work and gumption. What about motivation at work, drive and the will to succeed? These are just as important to future success. We won’t be able to move forward in life if we don’t know where we want to go.

Start by taking inventory of your life. What are your goals? Do you want to run your own company, or are you satisfied with working closely with a smaller team? Consider your personality and unique way of doing things. Understanding your expectations is the first step in finding the motivation to succeed. Develop faith in your abilities. This is accomplished by building self-esteem, learning your weaknesses and creating plans to succeed.

Ujima – Working together to build the community.

Ujima focuses on working together, but it is about more than coming together as a team. The third day of Kwanzaa gives you the chance to reflect on how you give back to the community. Volunteering is the best way to help others in need, learn how to work together to solve a problem and build a better community. Select a volunteer opportunity based on your interests and importance.

Once you’ve selected a location, ask for help from your colleagues. Describe your initiative during lunch. Explain the need and how it helps the community. Don’t forget to mention the personal and professional rewards. Volunteering at a local charity not only builds self-esteem and gives you the satisfaction of doing something good, it also builds skills you will use on the job and in future positions.

Ujamaa – Build a self-supporting business by helping others.

Day four of Kwanzaa promotes self-sufficiency. There is no better way to accomplish this than by helping your fellow teammates. The primary goal of every business is to succeed and eventually be self-sufficient. As employees it is our job to help the company achieve success. This is accomplished by going beyond our job description and helping others. Successful teams start with happy co-workers, and this can help their motivation at work, too!

Connect with your team and let them know you personally care about them. Ask them about their day, invite a few team members to join you for lunch each week. Just remember to keep it professional. Don’t question their personal life unless they offer first.

Don’t limit your concern to questions and conversation over coffee. Your team needs your help. If you see a co-worker struggling with a task, gently offer to help. Avoid offering unsolicited solutions. The point of helping others is to promote self-sufficiency. Just offer general help and let them decide how to reciprocate. If you know a co-worker is burdened with family problems and behind on work, offer to help them catch up. Soon the entire team will start pitching in.

Nia – Finding purpose in your work life.

Life soon becomes dull without purpose. We all want, and need, to feel useful in some way. Otherwise, we will start losing motivation and drive. But purpose isn’t about finding some chest-pumping, world-changing opportunity. Purpose comes in smaller varieties. School cafeteria workers have a purpose. They provide nourishment to children. Taxi drivers often save us from being late.

Purpose can be found in the simple moments of life. You can create your own purpose. Consider your values and morals. Do you think it’s important to help others in need? Open the door for the UPS worker delivering an armful of packages. Do you feel it’s important to help others feel good about themselves? Tell the receptionist you like her new hairstyle. Express gratitude for even the smallest of favors.

Kuumba – Being more creative at work.

Day six of Kwanzaa is the most entertaining and delightful of all seven days. Kuumba – our inner passion and creativity – gives us the chance to express our inner thoughts and emotions through design and innovation. This is your chance to think outside the box. Though it often feels like the river of ideas has dried up, there are techniques to improve your innovation and contributions at work. And being more creative and coming up with new ideas can help improve your motivation at work.

Take extra time each day to brainstorm. Brainstorming is crucial to creativity. But many professionals are too busy or inundated with tasks to focus on new ideas. Take at least 30 minutes to an hour each week to write those ideas on paper. Ideas also have a funny way of showing up when you least expect them to. Keep pen and paper handy to jot them down as soon as they pop up. Don’t wait until later or when you get around to it.

Imani – Faith in ourselves.

The most important day of Kwanzaa is the last day. Imani – having faith in ourselves and believing in our abilities – has a strong impact on personal and professional success. Admittedly, learning to trust yourself is not easy. First, many people mistakenly believe they already have faith in themselves. Just because you think you can do something correctly doesn’t mean you have OVERALL faith in yourself.

Once you realize faith in yourself has a deeper meaning, it’s time to start removing the problems limiting your faith. The first step is to stop valuing yourself according to other people’s opinions. If someone thinks poorly of you, don’t worry about it. The best way to prove your worth is believing in yourself and showing confidence.

Understanding that your words affect your thinking is the next step. Have you ever heard the saying that words have power? This is true. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you will fail. Speaking positively and telling yourself you will succeed will build self-esteem.

Learn from your mistakes. Just because you failed the first attempt doesn’t label you as a failure. Keep trying. Evaluate why you made a mistake and determine a solution. Practicing this technique will help you trust yourself and have more faith in your abilities.

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Photo credit: BlackHour on Flickr

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