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Developing career resilience
Developing career resilience

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1.3 Motivation and reward

Another inner resource that can have a positive impact on career resilience is your motivation. When we are motivated to achieve something, we can often overcome challenges and setbacks with a more positive attitude. If there are rewards for our brain following a particular action we take, such as the feeling of satisfaction we experience after helping someone, that can boost our motivation and support our resilience even further.

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Figure 3


Resnick (2018) explains that motivation is different to resilience as it ‘is based on an inner urge rather than stimulated in response to adversity or challenge. Motivation refers to the need, drive, or desire to act in a certain way to achieve a certain end’.

She goes on to describe motivation and resilience as being closely related, and suggests that the ‘characteristics of individuals who are motivated and those who are resilient are similar and can be developed over time’.

From the perspective of career resilience, it can be useful to learn from the strategies that other professionals use to maintain their motivation in the workplace. Some people leave stressful workplaces because of burnout, but others are able to thrive and succeed in the face of the same ongoing challenges. What can make the difference?


In Week 3, you looked at the importance of identifying your personal values and the link between affirming those values and reducing stress. In their review of the emerging literature, Dutcher and Cresswell (2018) also identified ‘the role that reward system neurotransmitters [in the brain] play in stress resilience’, and concluded that ‘a broad range of rewards, from sweet substances to thinking about important values, can have stress buffering effects’.

Lee (2019) explains the pharmacological origins of motivation in layman’s terms. He talks about the importance of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which carries messages between the neurons in your brain. He describes dopamine’s job as being ‘to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad’ and explains that ‘motivation happens when your dopamine spikes because you anticipate something important is about to happen’.

In a work context, if we can motivate ourselves in times of stress – and identify and recognise our rewards for that motivation – we can deal with the stress more effectively, enhancing our career resilience.

Activity 3 Motivation and reward at work

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Part 1

Watch the video ‘Nursing – value and reward’ and note down the rewards the speakers identify that they gain from their work. Open the link to the video (below) in a new window or tab.

Nursing – value and reward [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (make sure to open the link in a new tab/window)

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The speakers describe helping patients understand their disease, making a difference, helping children through hard times, mental stimulation, being appreciated and supporting patients’ recoveries among other rewards. They are clear about the difficulties but also recognise the rewards, i.e. what makes the job worthwhile for them.

Bearing in mind what you learned about values in Week 3, the greatest boost to your resilience should come from rewards that align with your values. Nurses have usually chosen their profession because they have strong core values around caring and supporting – so a positive response from someone they are caring for will reward that.

Part 2

What motivates you in your current role? What gives you that feel-good sense of reward? Look back at Week 3, Activity 4, where you identified your values. Are there any clues there?

Once you have identified the things that motivated you – consider whether there are ways you can increase or prolong their positive impact. For example, if you enjoy reading thank-you notes from clients, can you display them somewhere? If you are motivated by new challenges, could you plan in new projects once a quarter? Note down any thoughts you might have.

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