Working alone as a start-up, home based business or freelancer can mean that motivation doesn’t come easily.
You have no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, no boss checking that you’re delivering on time, and too many distractions, like the dog wanting walked and the laundry pile beckoning. So how do you stay motivated in your business when working conditions are less than perfect?
Training for a half marathon taught me a lot about motivation, particularly as I only started running at the age of 39.
Here are 5 tips that I used while training for my half marathon that you can use for motivation in your business:
1. Goal setting
As someone who had only just started running 6 months prior to my half marathon entry, and having never run more than 5K, I didn’t have the first idea how to go about setting a running plan for a much longer distance.
I downloaded a beginners training plan that instantly gave me motivation in the form of specific actions. Distances, speed work, rest days, different types of workouts – all was mapped out for me. Without such clear goals, my early motivation would have quickly diminished and disappeared.
Having goals in your business is a huge motivator, as goals move you into action. Knowing where you are heading and why, gives you a clear roadmap to your end goal. Large goals, like your overall vision for the business and the service you provide, can be broken down into smaller monthly, weekly and even daily goals. Like training to run 13 miles, business goals will show you how each day will lead you to the end result.
2. Monitoring performance
I use a training app that records how far I’ve run, how fast and even how many calories I’ve burned. I can see on a day-to-day basis how my performance has been affected by the weather or the time of day I’ve gone out.
In your business, you should have a weekly check in to figure out what has worked and what hasn’t. Not only will this show you the successes that you’re having on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but over time, you’ll also get a sense of what isn’t working. That means that you can ditch these activities rather than relentlessly plugging away at them for months on end.
3. Motivational music
I can’t run without music. Well, obviously, I can run, I just don’t run particularly well. I focus too much on my breathing. Is it too heavy? Too shallow? I worry about my gait – too long, too short? And I just can’t get into the zone. In short, other things distract me.
So, my running soundtrack helps to motivate each and every training session. I have fast paced dance tracks when I want to focus on my speed, rock music that helps me to focus on that finish line and not the pain in my lungs. And a few tracks that are nice and slow for those recovery runs.
A motivational soundtrack – be that tunes, a podcast, a regular radio show or even whale music – will help you to get in the zone, particularly on those days when you’d rather be anywhere than at your desk. You might prefer music with no lyrics, or you might like some opera. The whole point is that you need to figure out the soundtrack that works best for you. HINT: It should lift your spirits, and help you to work better.
4. Get accountable
The first time I ran a half marathon I was terrified. What if I couldn’t run further than 5K without collapsing? What if I got halfway and seized up? Fear kills motivation. It stops us from taking action. One way to overcome fear is to become accountable to others. I decided to train for a half marathon not just to challenge myself, but like thousands of others, to do it for charity.
I signed up to raise money for a cancer charity, then sent all of my Facebook friends a link to my fundraising page before I could even think about it. I had expected that the fear of backing out after all my friends knew about my half marathon goal would be too humiliating. What I hadn’t expected was to gain 100’s of virtual cheerleaders. Friends and family sent messages of support. ‘ You can do it.’ ‘What a fantastic idea.’ And, my favourite, ‘You’ve inspired me to do it too.’
You can do this at every stage of your business or freelance career. From when you start out by telling people what you’re planning to do, to when you are making important goals for your business – such as changing direction, earning more profits or gaining more clients. TIP: choose wisely. Don’t pick negative people.
The aim is to gain motivation and, while you don’t want people who think everything is wonderful either, those who are persistently negative will not help to motivate you. (Unless it’s to prove them wrong, of course). Making yourself accountable to others is a powerful motivation technique. It broadcasts your intention – giving you the motivation to show that you can do what you’ve set out to do; while also giving you a strong set of supporters for when your internal motivation needs a boost.
5. Put one foot in front of the other and just do it
My final point was going to be ‘just do it’ but Nike beat me to that tag line. The first step to my half marathon was setting out the door on that first training run and just putting one foot in front of the other. Again and again. Training for a half marathon is a big time commitment compared to a 5K. It requires persistence.
The first training sessions were tough, but by half way through, I had stopped gritting my teeth every time I headed out and started looking forward to runs. I was keen to see how much I could challenge myself. And how much I’d improved.
Every successful entrepreneur started out one day with nothing but an idea. Instead of being crippled by judging yourself against those who are already successful, just start. Take the first step to get your business idea into action. And the next one. Then the next one. And pretty soon you will start to see the fruits of your labors.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson
You’ll win that first client. You’ll get that 5 star customer review. Action leads to motivation. Motivation leads to action. Keep the circle moving and you will stay motivated throughout your business life.
What motivational exercises have you learned from one area of your life that you’ve used in another? Do you use any of the techniques above – or do you have suggestions to add to the list?
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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