Motivation, persistence and energy—let’s say being sparked—are important to succeeding in any endeavour. 

If you are working in Sustainability, or want to work in Sustainability—there is one big advantage—you can be proud of the work you are doing and feel that you are making a contribution to society and the planet. 

But sometimes that’s not enough. 

How can you sustain:

  • The desire to keep going
  • The desire to find a way to the destination, when it’s not easy
  • The desire to put in the effort and hard work?

Here are five ideas. The sixth strategy? What do you think? Please put your idea, or ideas, in the comment box below. 

Self-affirmations displayed on a wall.

1 Affirm yourself and your capacity to reach your goals. 

One of the first books I ever read on this topic, published before I was born, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, has the core theory that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between actual experience and imagination. Here is an inspiring video by Malkhaz Geldiashvili, that summarises this book.

More recently Jason Selk’s book, Executive Toughness, starts with a similar message, centred on your self image and visualisation of the person you want to be. Selk promotes a short daily routine of visualisation of this preferred state. 

Here is a video summary of the book, which discusses this and more, by Brian Johnson. Look for the thermostat analogy—being an energy efficiency engineer and understanding the importance of thermostat settings to building energy use—it’s interesting to see how by resetting the thermostat of your personal expectations you can release more energy to become more successful in sustainability.

Daily self-affirmations are another technique, such as:

  • I am making the world more sustainable today.
  • I am the kind of person who actively pursues and achieves my goals.
  • I am worthy of success in every area of my life.

2 Block out distractions.

No doubt you’ve heard this before, and understand just how hard it can be to do this with the world literally at your fingertips (via the internet). 

Some techniques to block out distractions are:

  • Download a site blocker to your internet browser, and block sites you waste time on. 
  • Turn off email notifications
  • Lock in downtime, away from work, and treat it seriously, but also simultaneously lock in uptime, and be serious about that too. 
  • When starting a project, break it down into tasks, and keep breaking it down into smaller tasks that you can do in less than 60 minutes. Then use a countdown timer app to hold yourself accountable. Try and finish the task before the timer goes off.  
Woman meditating on the beach.

3 Treat emotional bruises and grazes like you do physical ones. 

What happens when you fall over and graze yourself? Or bump into something and are bruised. A graze can really hurt, but then you wash it, clean out the dirt and blood, perhaps apply some disinfectant, then let it heal by itself. And whilst you are conscious of the graze if you bump it, most of the time it doesn’t worry you. And in a week or so it’s gone. Perhaps there is a small scar which remains longer, but it too eventually disappears, and it’s really no bother at all. Another thing you’ll probably do if getting the graze was your own fault—is to think about how to avoid that happening again. And yes, every time I now go round that sharp corner on my bicycle I now take it a bit slower!

With emotional bruises a similar approach seems to work. An emotional bruise could be being rejected for a job you have applied for, being criticized, being ignored. It can hurt a lot. Disinfect it by talking about how you feel with someone, friends or family, and if its really bad maybe even a professional, such as a psychologist, but then let it go. Don’t come back to it. Let it heal itself. Reflect on what perhaps you could have done differently, but then park that thought, don’t dwell on it, until you are in similar circumstances, and then try to apply what you learnt. This may not be easy to do, the healing process could be aided by meditating, keeping a journal, talk therapy or more. With these techniques, you can improve your perspective. And rather than focus on the past, your focus will be on how to improve yourself more.

4 Work to your strengths

This was a concept I came across some time ago, and is associated with Marcus Buckingham and his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work. Buckingham has spent his career studying successful people, and has come to the conclusion that the one thing they have in common is that they all build on their strengths and work on ways to manage their weaknesses. Here is a short video of him presenting this idea.

One of my strengths is my ability to explain things. And I’ve worked and continue to work, on becoming better at explaining things, and to be an effective trainer and teacher. About a month ago I got an email from one of my students, who said “I learnt a lot and you are definitely a born teacher.” 

Wow, what a compliment! How do you think I felt after receiving this message? I felt energized, validated, affirmed. 

You see, when you work to your strengths you get affirmed, and this affirmation can keep you going. 

How can you find out what your strengths are? Well, there are various tests you can take, but you can also ask friends and family what they see you as being good at.

Women participating in a webinar in sustainability education.


5 You have a Strength in Sustainability

I manage a number of career groups on LinkedIn related to sustainability and clean energy, and I like to engage with new members joining the group. In doing this I’ve become more and more aware of just how all-encompassing sustainability is and how virtually any strength can be applied to make our world more sustainable. 

There are sustainability challenges with the environment, with climate change, pollution, and finite resources – such as lithium. There are sustainability challenges in giving everyone the opportunity to “lead a long, healthy and creative life.” There are sustainability challenges in avoiding war and conflict. These many challenges require a vast range of strengths to solve. 

No matter what your background and life experience – I’m sure you can find a strength and apply it to sustainability. 

And, by the way, if you are at a stage of your life where you want to give back, or are motivated to volunteer, and your strength is somehow related to the Sustainability Education Academy’s mission, including promotion, sales, and marketing, I’d love it if you would contact us

6 What’s your idea?

Now it’s your turn. This is quite deliberate. Thinking of your own Strategy to Stay Sustainably Sparked for Sustainability will probably energize you more than any of the above ideas, since you have come up with it, and own it. And please share with everyone reading this post by putting it in the comment box below. 😊


Thanks to Jenelly Grace Laroco, Registered Psychometrician, for her suggestions for this article.

2 thoughts on “Six Strategies for Staying Sustainably Sparked for Sustainability”

  1. Great article Bruce! After working in Sustainability for 20 years I sometimes despair and think it’s all too hard or I am going around in circles and not really having an impact or just fiddling at the edges. But I can honestly say I am doing my best to make a difference to the world and that is the main thing. I’m trying to lead by example. I know my strengths and now not so hung up about my weaknesses. Also having an awesome support team with my colleagues at The Ecoefficiency Group absolutely seals the deal to keep going…thanks for your article.

    1. Thanks Penny. Writing it actually helped motivate me too. And all of us each making a small contribution adds up to something significant. Its great you have a strong support group around you too, a good strategy number 6! 🙂 Keep it up!

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