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Main Content

Strengthening Your Work Ethic Ability

When you have a strong work ethic, you're willing to make sacrifices to achieve important goals.

A strong work ethic is important in any arena of your life. For example, say that you held down several part-time jobs to put yourself through school — even though these jobs left you little time for travel, hobbies, and other interests. Or you spent several years in less-than-fascinating roles in an industry that interested you. Though "paying your dues" got tiresome at times, those early roles enabled you to acquire the skills, confidence, and contacts you needed when you eventually obtained your ideal job.

To strengthen your work ethic, consider these suggestions:

  • Read books that bear on the subject. Potential useful titles include The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This book contains some sections comparing the work ethic of people from developed and developing countries. Friedman emphasizes work ethic as a major source of competitive advantage for emerging economies. The book is an eye-opener for anyone who still believes that a strong work ethic is no longer necessary to get ahead. Books on other aspects of this ability — such as goal setting and goal achievement — can also be useful.

  • Take a self-paced online course on aspects of this ability. Online courses often introduce key concepts related to the topic, provide hands-on practice in related skills, and offer helpful tips and tools. Your employer may have a site license to such courses that you can access through your company's intranet. You may also be able to purchase individual CDs containing modules of interest to you, or download them from the Web for free or for a small fee.

  • Consult an expert. Find someone at school or at work who you view as having particularly strong work ethic. Ask this person how he or she has strengthened this ability.

  • Attend a workshop, training session, or course on goal setting and other aspects of this ability. Your employer may offer some of these, or may be willing to fund your tuition if you take such a course. Your local continuing education programs may also offer such courses and workshops.

  • Consider what happened in the past when you weren't willing to make sacrifices to achieve important goals. Most likely, you didn't advance too far down the path of your life — whether in school, work, at home, in a sport, or in your community. And perhaps you experienced some dire consequences, such as getting fired from a job or earning less-than-stellar grades that put you at a disadvantage when you entered the workforce.

  • Identify types of work that enable you to express your deepest interests. When you know that the job you're striving for is ideal for you, you'll likely be more willing to make whatever sacrifices are required to obtain that job.

  • Practice working hard. If you have an aversion to intensive work, try putting in an afternoon of demanding physical labor on an effort that will yield tangible results — such as splitting and stacking wood, raking leaves, or painting a fence or house. Sometimes an experience like this can leave you feeling a huge sense of accomplishment — and can make you realize that the rewards of a big effort can be well worth the hard work involved.

  • Keep your eyes on the prize. Whenever you feel reluctant to make a sacrifice for a particular goal, find a way to keep the goal in the forefront of your mind. By keeping your attention on the goal — and not on the hard work you must exert to get there — you'll likely feel more motivated to keep pushing forward.

By strengthening your work ethic, you stand a far better chance of achieving the objectives most crucial to you — in every dimension of your life. The strategies described above can help you enhance this important ability.