How to keep goin' when the goin' ain't so great.

In today's modern job market, candidates are in a position to be sold to. HR and Marketing are partnering together like never before and they're creating branding initiatives and recruitment campaigns that are geared toward making you want to work there.

As candidates, we interpret a job opportunity not necessarily by what the employer does or says but in the way that we wish to interpret it. We apply our own context filters and might not really hear what's being said (or what's not being said). We may overlook clues in the interview stage that signal a rotten culture or flags that tell us leadership is a mess. Or, we might catch those clues and ignore them anyway.

The truth is: we want to buy into it. Whether you believe people like being sold to or they like buying, I'd split the difference. We like the experience of shopping, and shopping for jobs isn't that different. We will hear what we want to hear from the recruiter or hiring manager and still make our own decisions about the place.

This can and will result in disappointment, but don't worry. We all find ourselves in jobs that aren't quite what we imagined. Because it's work, it's not always as simple as just finding a new job. We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and really - it's has to be pretty bad to quit after a month. My advice is always to tough it out for a year at least.

When you find yourself in this situation, it's really important that you know how to stay motivated at work. 

Sure, the job might be the pits. Bad culture. Poor leaders. A smorgasbord of un-dream-job-like qualities, but if you're going to be miserable on top of all that, you've got another thing coming.

If you're feeling in the pits at work, you need to pull yourself out of it and get motivated. Here's how to stay motivated at work and what you do when the going got tough and you're feeling down and out each day. Here are four self-motivation tips to live by:

1. Weigh the good.

It might be cliche to say, but you need to start off by looking at the bright side. Optimism is going to be the coal in your fire; it'll keep your engine going and keep you warm. Sometimes you have to stretch yourself to find the good in a situation, but think of what's at stake - your livelihood. Work is where we spend the majority of our time and if we start having feelings of hopelessness there, it could be a slippery slope into depression. The facts are there and optimism is good for heart health, life expectancy and success.

So how do you conjure up some optimism and self-motivation when the going gets tough? Make a list of everything that is alright with your job. Just write. It doesn't have to be a laundry list of amazing perks, but think about the stuff that is pretty good and start there. You can even start with number one: I'm employed. Being thankful for the everyday stuff like having a job, is a great way to shift your perspective. Just google your local unemployment rate and maybe you'll feel a bit better.

2. Spread the love.

When the going gets tough and you're struggling to make yourself happy, try and make someone else happy. In a study, researchers “found that the more people participated in meaningful activities, the happier they were and the more purposeful their lives felt.” This is all fine and dandy but how can you apply it at work? Find out what the pain points are and strive to abolish them. Help others out wherever you can. Be a source of positive energy for others. In everything you do, strive to be helpful. It could mean small acts of kindness around the office like refilling the kettle for the next guy or starting a social committee and planning some well-earned fun for your team. Whatever you do, ask yourself if it's helpful to someone else and their joy will soon translate to your own.

3. Set some goals.

I'd take an aggressive growth plan and being overworked any day before a job with no purpose or goals. Setting and achieving career goals at work give us meaning and direction. We need a vision to be inspired and without that it'll all start to feel pointless.  

If you find yourself in a situation like this you've got to take the bull by its horns! Don't wait for someone to motivate you - try some self-motivation! If the vision isn't set, set one. It doesn't have to be an impressive vision, linked to the corporate strategy and all of that. It can be a vision for you and your work. You can frame success within the context of your environment and what is within the scope of your control. Create your own goals, even if they're small. Having goals and making progress on those goals makes us happier so go out there and start setting some goals.

4. Bask in the sun (when it's out).

Perspective is everything and gratitude is a big chunk of that. It's so important to realize, acknowledge and be thankful when things are good. It's a great way to know how to stay motivated at work. Being present makes us happier and critical to that is recognizing the positive. As much as recruiters are trying to tell us dream jobs exist, no job is perfect and there will be highs and lows. Using this information we must trigger ourselves (or better yet, pinch ourselves!) when things are going good and relish in it a bit, soak it up. Why? It's going to pass. Hard times will come. Realize that and when the going is good, ride the wave happily.

Because we spend 40 hours plus per week at work, it's critical that you feel good when you're there. Feeling good starts with you, your perspectives, and attitude. Approach work with optimism, gratitude, and a desire to be helpful and you'll have a foundation for a happier workplace.

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