9 Tips for Staying Motivated on Your Trauma-Informed Journey
Committing to trauma-informed work can be a real challenge. Most trauma-informed practices involve cultural changes and large-scale perspective shifts. On the individual level, that means changing your behaviors and thought patterns—which is a lot easier said than done.
Trauma-informed work is inside-out work, which means most of the “work” you’ll do is not task-based, but behavior-based. It’s incredibly challenging, and it’s okay to feel like you’re struggling on this journey. This stuff isn’t easy—that’s why a lot of people don’t do it.
But you are someone who wants to do the work. You see the value in it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy for you. And that’s a part of the journey.
So, how can we stay motivated to do the work when it’s difficult or when it feels like we aren’t getting anywhere?
These 9 tips can help you stay motivated and push forward on your trauma-informed journey.
1 - Embrace a sense of progress
We often get the sense that we’re not changing or moving when we change or move slowly. But rapid change isn’t how we implement trauma-informed norms. For change to be sustainable and long-term, it also needs to be gradual.
The solution for this issue is to track your progress. When you can see on paper that you’ve achieved measurable results and you’re going in the right direction, the idea of quitting is a lot less appealing.
For some organizations, that might mean sending out surveys and assessments and analyzing the data. For individuals, that could look like habit tracking or journaling.
What you decide to track depends on your specific goals and current focus areas. You might measure:
how often you refer to your safety plans
how many days a week you set aside dedicated time to reflect on trauma-informed practices or read trauma-informed content
the hours you spend taking trauma-informed courses
a daily self-assessment of certain trauma-informed skills, like active listening, emotional regulation, reenactment breaking, etc.
2 - Consider the benefits of the work
When something seems difficult to achieve and the results are difficult to see, the conclusion is that the work isn’t worthwhile. A great way to stay motivated to do trauma-informed work is to consider the outcomes of achieving your goal.
The work may be challenging, but the rewards are equal to the effort.
What benefits of trauma-informed work do you want the most? If you’re committed to doing trauma-informed work, you probably want to:
have better, more meaningful relationships at home or work
resist toxic cultural norms
dismantle toxic power systems
ensure racial justice and equity
heal from your trauma
support others in their healing and learning journeys
resist traumatizing others
reduce turnover and increase retention rates at work
possess healthy emotional regulation tools
increase loyalty, compassion, and safety at work
better manage anxiety, depression, and brain fog
Trauma-informed work improves your overall well-being, including your social, emotional, and mental well-being, because trauma-informed care is a way of living that informs your perspectives, beliefs, and behaviors.
If you want to stay motivated to do the work, choose three of the most meaningful reasons why you chose to start the work in the first place.
3 - Ask yourself what you lose by not doing the work
In addition to considering what you want to achieve through this work, you can also think about the results of not doing the work. What do you lose by quitting?
Giving up on trauma-informed work means resigning yourself to a way of life that doesn’t serve you or others. Without trauma-informed values or practices, you might:
fail to set and maintain healthy boundaries
struggle to ask for help
miss opportunities for growth and connection
contribute to larger systemic problems
actively create unsafe spaces for others
4 - Focus on specific, achievable goals
When we take on trauma-informed work, we can easily become overwhelmed with the sheer number of goals we want to accomplish: active listening, emotional intelligence, empathy, resisting reenactments, community meetings, addressing systemic injustices, making space for everyone, accountability, compassion, curiosity, authenticity, creating safety… and the list goes on and on.
Trauma-informed work is non-linear, meaning the themes of this work happen alongside other concepts and not in a step-by-step way. However, using a step-by-step structure to guide your work does have benefits.
When doing trauma-informed work, choosing a weekly or monthly theme to focus on can help you create specific and achievable goals. This direction can help you maintain forward momentum as you continue trauma-informed work.
5 - Find a community to support you
Trauma-informed work doesn’t happen in a bubble. You can’t do it alone because much of the work involves how you engage with others. So, finding a positive and encouraging community to support you on your journey is a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable.
When you share a commitment with others, you are much more likely to accomplish your goals. A trauma-informed community can also help you learn and grow in many ways.
At Chefalo Consulting, we lead online courses to guide individuals and teams on their trauma-informed journeys. We also occasionally host free networking sessions for our trauma-informed community to connect, ask questions, and seek support.
These networking sessions are called Intentional Conversations. Look for them under our “Courses” page. They are available seasonally.
6 - Talk to friends or colleagues
When searching for a trauma-informed community, it’s important to let go of rigid expectations of what that looks like. Your community could be very small.
Your community could be one other person who you check in with once in a while, and it will still have a similar effect of motivating you to keep going. A single friend or a few colleagues can create the community you need—it doesn’t need to be a team of experts.
7 - Use momentum to push you forward
When you give up, it can be harder to get started again—but getting back to the work after taking a break is a big accomplishment. Wherever you are on your journey, use your momentum to push you forward by looking at things with a healthy perspective and maintaining positive self-talk.
You can tell yourself:
“I’ve already come so far, and I’m not about to give up now.”
“Look at all I’ve already accomplished in just one year. I can do just as much next year if I keep going.”
“I took a break, and it’s time to get back to the work. I’m prepared to take it on.”
“Everything I’ve done up until now shows how strong and capable I am. I can keep going.”
8 - Don’t shame yourself when you take a break from the work
Although forward momentum is a great way to push forward, losing that momentum is nothing to be ashamed of.
When you start again after giving up or taking a break, be sure to celebrate yourself instead of shame yourself. Congratulate yourself on getting back to the work—because deciding to pick it back up can be challenging.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. We all need to rest.
9 - Ask a mentor or expert to help guide you on your journey
Finally, a great way to stay motivated to do trauma-informed work is to enlist the help of an expert mentor who can guide, advise, encourage, coach, and support you as you move through this journey.