Four Keys to Staying Motivated During the Entire Fire Service Promotion Journey


Promoting in the fire service is a competitive process, and that element of competition is a strong motivator. Firefighters tend to be naturally competitive, and that will work to your advantage if you can use it as fuel for the motivation fire. But understanding that motivation itself is an emotion, and emotions are fleeting, makes it glaringly obvious that you can’t rely on motivation alone to power through the hours and hours you’ll need to devote to properly preparing for your promotional test. Still, there is good news. We’ve rounded up four keys to help you stay motivated during the entire fire service promotion journey.

1. Be Clear on Your Why

This is a great exercise and well worth a few minutes of time before you start studying. And actually, it applies to all aspects of life. Think about and visualize whatever it is you’re chasing. In this case, it’s the fire promotion. Why do you want it? How will your life change when you get it? Be specific and complete. Is it the first step toward a bigger goal? Do you want a better life for your family? There are no wrong answers — just be honest. 

Step two is actually writing down these thoughts to further clarify your “why.” I like to summarize it in a sentence or two and keep it somewhere I see it often. Refer to your “why” when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed. It will help you focus on the tasks at hand by reminding you why you’re doing all this, and it can be exactly what you need to keep pushing forward.

2. Use an Accountability Buddy

Find someone you trust who will hold you accountable to your goals. To be efficient, your study partner can double as your accountability buddy. A spouse or partner is often a good choice, because they likely play a role in your “why” and your goals. No matter who you choose, make sure to check in with them on a regular basis. Encourage them to keep on you to ensure you are hitting your study goals and sticking to your plan. Just the process of communicating your intentions to someone you respect will make you more likely to stick it out.

3. Create Short and Long-Term Goals

When we think of setting goals, they tend to be lofty and long term. But setting short-term goals can move you along that path to your larger goal. For a firefighter wanting to get promoted, the goal is clear — getting promoted. Smaller short-term goals can be set weekly to help you get that big goal, like getting in a certain number of study hours per week, or reading a particular textbook by a specific date. Another good short-term goal is to build an effective study group three months before your test date. Take the time to set up these short-term goals — look at them as the steps that will move you ever closer to the big payoff.

4. Establish a Reward System

This ties into building a system of short-term goals. After you hit each short-term goal, reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, and neither does your goal. Maybe your reward for reading that book or hitting your study time in a given week is an hour of your favorite show or a trip to your favorite brewery or coffeehouse. Celebrating every short-term goal helps build your momentum and maintain your motivation until you reach the end of your journey. And that, of course, is when you really should celebrate. If big rewards are motivating to you, make a plan for something special when you finally get that promotion.

The Takeaway

The journey to successfully passing a fire department promotional exam is challenging and strenuous. Putting a system in place at the beginning to keep you motivated through the process will help ensure you attain your goal and reach the “why” that’s so important to you. And remember —  a reliable online study tool that provides you with effective study strategies will only help.