How being self-motivated is an asset

 
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When you are expected to uproot your life every four years, how do you stay motivated and emrabce change? Diplomats are required to do this as part of their jobs so as not to get too attached to their houst country. Naturally, while international diplomacy is a fascinating career, it contains several challenges and severe working conditions which means having strong mental and psychological fortitude.

Moving to a new home is one of the most stressful situations to be placed in. Imagine doing this more than ten times in your life. In addition to moving, you need to learn the local language to operate effectively, ensure your family needs are taken care of and embrace a host of political and cultural change. Your decision has immense consequences, but preparing a road map to help manage with such changes can be a gamechanger.

Here are a few helpful reminders on how to maintain self-motivation in times of extreme change and stress.

1. Look at any situation as an opportunity to learn

Turning obstacles as an opportunity for lifelong learning is a useful attitude to have, even if you are facing the same hardship over and over again. When in this situation, think of Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for fighting against social injustice and abolished him from society. As a political prisoner, Mandela used his time in captivity to find resolve in his situation, mastering a path to his suffering.

In his book, ’A Long Way to Freedom’ Mandela described his lifelong imprisonment as hopeless with no light of a new government to shift the course of his future. However, as a law graduate, he understood that his legal right for trials and with the help of the outside world and his relationship with prison management, his rallied support to get his case heard. In such a desperate situation, Mandela could have given up, but he used his solitude to rethink of his circumstance as an opportunity to learn and re-strategies, even under the worst circumstances.

 

2. Be true to yourself

As a diplomatic representative, you must make challenging decisions and participate in different events, sometimes even for a day. Consequently, you need to be aware of your situation and emotions.

Former US President Barack Obama had an excellent reputation in self-perception and judging problematic situations accordingly. At a public rally, Obama started to cry when speaking about the terrorist attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Experts concluded that his emotions were viewed as genuine which translated well amongst his constituents. His emotive display made him a caring leader that understood what many people were going through.

His example shines a light on how important it is to know yourself, particularly in a position of leadership. If you are too confident or not confident enough, your leadership might fail. If you are tired, delegates your tasks and ask for help. If your performance is at its peak, why not try going the extra mile for your team? This level of support will be beneficial in times of stress.

 

3. Manage your emotions so that you can think clearly and objectively

In times of stress, it is crucial that we have full control of ourselves so that we may be able to lead others effectively. President Obama took on a heritage of problems from his predecessor from managing securities from the 9/11 attacks to remedying consequences of the Iraq war. When diplomatic relationships stalled between the US and the Middle East, people from both sides became emotional and destructive.

In times of crisis, President Obama acknowledged the weakness of his country by opening his presidency with a note of friendship of his Middle Eastern counterpart. His famous speech in Cairo was thoughtful and constructive in asking for the hand of friendship. Throughout his speech, he reiterated the desire to have the Muslim World as an equal partner, particularly at a time when emotions were high

Having emotional intelligence supports answers to difficult questions of what one would do in a situation like that. If Obama, as a leading figure, had a vision of a peaceful world, he brought his vision to the table as a pro-active role model who was the first US president in history to have chosen to make such a symbolical gesture in the Middle East – a key achievement that brought him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  

 

4. Willingness to work in basic conditions

Diplomacy can mean a contradiction between very large and tiny missions. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers diplomats the opportunity to work in mega missions with cross-government ‘mini-Whitehalls’ that has the support of hundreds of staff; as well as the change to work in very Small Embassy or Post (VSEP), which typically involves working with a handful of staff and minimal resources.

A blog under the title ‘The lonely death of a British Vice-Consul in Persia’ (Makepeace, 2015) recounts the short-lived 1902 posting of Captain Edward Boxer to the port of Bandar Abbas in Persia and quotes a report from The Times of India: "The consular office furniture consisted of an old desk, a tin box, and three chairs. There was not even a stool for a clerk, who sits on the floor. […] There is not even a Consular flagstaff, but […] a bamboo pole stuck in a baked mud base on the roof."

Some posts are very likely to be under-resourced and unchallenging, and this is something that all diplomats must consider carefully when deciding to relocate onself and the entore family. Decide if you want to make sacrifices by planning 10-30 years ahead, you need to plan 10, 20 or 30 years ahead.

 

With 365 days in a year, you need to balance yourself well to perform at a consistently high level consistently. By understanding your needs, desires and yourself, you will ensure that your emotionl up for the challenge, whatever it may be. Emotions drive our actions. Without external help or self-reflection, we can quickly misbehave or harm others.