Having motivation in business is one of the biggest challenges for the self-employed.
When you work for yourself, no one else sets your objectives. There’s no “boss” to set your hours, or to prioritise your work. You answer only to yourself (and maybe your family).
That's all part of the dream....
But, it also means the responsibility to make decisions sits squarely on your shoulders.
Which brings us to a critical realisation: self-motivation matters. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, having confidence in your business and maintaining your enthusiasm can be tough challenges when it’s “all down to you”.
I'd wager that pretty much every small-business owner would admit to having struggled with motivation for their business at one point or another.
However, you can’t afford to struggle with such mindsets for long.
When you’re motivated – you're on the path to success.
When you’re not – you're in trouble. Because motivation isn't “nice to have”, it's the determinant of success.
Success in business comes from taking the right actions
This is no secret. So success also comes down to understanding what gets in the way of taking those actions. Which are:
Block #1 - You're not clear: you don't have your necessary actions, or your “reasons” for doing them, clearly defined.
Block #2 - You “don't feel like it”: you’re driven by an emotional response against the actions you “know” you need to take.
Overcoming the first block requires knowing both WHAT to do … and knowing WHY to do it.
Knowing what to do – having your objectives, strategies and priorities clear – is a big subject in itself, and is covered in other articles.
In this article, I’ll go deeper into knowing your WHY, and overcoming the “don’t feel like it” challenges.
The Business Mindset You Need
Emotion is an energy, think of it as “E + motion” … energy in motion … it's an energy, within you.
That energy creates and fuels motivation.
It comes from extrinsic INSPIRATION: Looking at where you are NOW and identifying where you WANT to be.…
And it comes from an intrinsic DECISIVENESS: A shift within yourself from WISHING for that end goal, to ACTING on it.
Think back to when you took the leap to becoming self-employed. You'd identified WHERE you wanted to be … what you wanted to do, to change, how you wanted to live your life … and you ACTED on it, making it actually happen.
That energy to ACT was fuelled by the inspiration of your MOTIVE.
Motivation is not only necessary for big, life-changing decisions. Something as simple as getting a glass of water requires the same: you're thirsty – you have an “external” motive … which leads to your internal energy moving you to action, propelling you off to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
Motive spurs action. That action being triggered by your desire and willingness, your enthusiasm, to fulfil that motive ... and reach that goal.
So, what to do when you're lacking motivation? And what is blocking that “motivational energy”?
The 4 Blocks to your Motivation in Business
There are 4 main causes of motivation blocks (which in fact apply in all aspects of your life, not only in business):
1. You don't agree with the “motive”: You're simply not aligned with the “why” … you may even disagree with it being necessary at all. If you don't “get” the motive, you're not likely to find the energy to want to achieve it....
2. Personal doubt: You don't believe it will work. Or worse, you don't believe YOU can do it … it's an issue of confidence, of self-belief … maybe even of imposter syndrome. You don't think you can, so you don't want to find the energy to try … in case you fail and prove yourself right.
3. The expected result didn't happen last time: Maybe it was the first time, maybe you've tried many times, but you didn't get the result you wanted … or expected. You invested time and effort … you invested energy, and emotion … and it wasn't worth it. If it seems pointless, or even impossible, that energy is bound to be much harder to find....
4. There's no personal benefit from doing it: One of those things that you aren't actually going to gain anything from … you're doing it because you “should”, not because you want to, or because it's going to result in anything worthwhile for you. There are always other things to do, so finding the motivation to push these ones to the top of the priority list is bound to be a struggle.
So, once you know the blocks and can recognise them, you need to know how to overcome them....
How to Overcome the 4 Blocks and Regain your Motivation
1. When you don't agree with the “motive”: instead CONNECT with the end result.
Simply put, you need to align yourself with that motive. Whether it's motivation for a particular task, or motivation for it ALL … when the motivation is waning, it's time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Trace it back to the root cause, reason, purpose for doing it at all….
Remind yourself – WHY did you become self-employed to begin with? Remind yourself of the benefits, of the things you love, the things you gain, and the things you left behind when leaving employed roles. Refocus on what you GAIN from doing it all, and you'll likely find the energy to want to reach those goals starts to resurface.
Even those smaller tasks … if that “thing” you've lost motivation to do is important, it will have a root, a result – a MOTIVE – that should be able to ignite the energy you need to want to do it ... And if it doesn't, perhaps you don't actually need to be doing it at all?
2. When you have personal doubt: instead “decide” to have COMMITMENT and COURAGE.
This one is all about the business mindset, having confidence in yourself and confidence in your business.
Don't let niggling doubts, wobbling confidence or pesky imposter syndrome traits push their way to the front of your mind.
You need to push them aside by remembering that you DO have skills, knowledge, and know-how, and you CAN help a lot of people with their problems.
Remind yourself of what you ARE able to achieve, and all the things to be GAINED by doing the task at hand. The client you're able to help, the money you're able to earn, the experience you'll gain, the reputation you'll build, the business you'll create … the freedom you'll enjoy … the lifestyle you'll achieve....
Remind yourself of all those motives, and use them as fuel to find the courage to start the ACTIONS.
And remind yourself that starting anything requires a decision. You don't need to wait for “proof” that you can – you just need to decide to start.…
3. When the expected result didn’t happen last time: instead ADJUST your expectations.
Few things work out right the first time. The world's greatest scientists, inventors and artists can all tell you that … as can most entrepreneurs.
Don't let a “failure” set you back. Your MOTIVE hasn't gone anywhere … so don't let the emotion of that fail stop you from reaching the end goal.
View the things that went wrong as useful feedback … as experiments … as things you can learn from – and build upon – in order to get closer to reaching your goal.
Feedback isn't personal. It's about the outcome of the action you put into the task … so simply use that feedback to try again: repeat, adapt, adjust … and seek your next bit of feedback.
4. When there's no personal benefit: instead identify what you CAN gain.
How many tasks really come with no personal benefit at all?
Take a step back and identify what you can, in fact, gain from taking this action. As I'll bet there is actually quite a lot you WILL be able to gain from it … and that in itself can give you the MOTIVE you need to get your motivation back.
Trace that task back to the bigger, overall picture … how does it feed into your biggest goals? Is it an integral part of your end success, it is a vital part of your overall business? If so, it's just gained a whole lot of importance for your personal gain. However “detached” it may seem at first glance.
And if not … perhaps you can still learn from it, perhaps you'll receive some praise, perhaps it will help others – enable you to contribute towards something you care about. Or perhaps it will simply allow you to “tick something off the task list” – some things … tax returns, for example … aren't ever going to be something we particularly want to do. But we do have to them, and the satisfaction of finally crossing those tasks off the to-do-list is not to be underestimated.
How do we Maintain Motivation in Business?
Overall, motivation for the self-employed is bound to ebb and flow … and we're all going to have far MORE motivation for the things we enjoy, the things we're best at, and the things we genuinely want to do.
The truth is, maintaining motivation in business is vital for your success. And beyond all the usual tips and productivity “hacks” to keep you focused and “on track”, the key to regaining motivation is remembering what motivation IS:
It's knowing your MOTIVES.
And it's creating the energy to ACT.
Both of which have a lot to do with your mindset … and with taking the time to step back, and look at the bigger picture.
And with always remembering WHY you set out on the rewarding path of self-employment to begin with.