After a much needed week off to appreciate the beautiful island of Roatan, it’s back to the grind stone. So much to do and so little time to do it in.Recently, on a forum that I participate in, a poster asked how people stay motivated on their journey to start a business or blog. It was a good time for me to reflect on what makes that work for me.

I think staying motivated is something that takes proactive work. If you don’t cultivate your motivation, it will die off. I’ve experienced this personally with work and past attempts at building a company. Over time (sometimes a short time), motivation dropped, I got complacent with where I’m at, get busy in the day job or with family, and everything goes back on the shelf for “later.” I look at motivation like a camp fire – if you aren’t actively gathering fuel and tending it, it will go out.

Camp Fire
Camp Fire

That then begs the question, what does active management of motivation look like? To me, it includes answering the question, “Why do I want to do this?” I’ve always wanted to have my own company. As a kid, I dreamed of owning a BMW dealership or an NFL football team. I watched infomercials on building real estate empires and read books on industry titans like JD Rockefeller. It was always something I wanted to do. As I’ve gotten older, the idea of my own company is liberating in the sense of my destiny is in my hands. I define my work and my future. With technology advances, I also see it as an opportunity to work wherever I want to. I realize it’s a lot of work, and harder than just showing up at a job and collecting a pay check, but with harder work can come greater rewards. When it comes down to it, being my own boss and being able to do whatever I think is best for my business is what it comes down to. Using that success to give me the freedom to work anywhere is an extension of that. This answers the why question.

Just answering this question isn’t enough. Having some type of action plan is also needed. I understand why I want it; the next question is “how will I do it?” I don’t have all the answers here. I don’t know every detail of every decision and action I will need to take, but I have a general direction that I believe in, and the understanding and skills to adapt as needed as I go through the journey. Feeling some level of confidence with the plan is important. If I said the how for me was to build rocket ships and take people to Mars, I wouldn’t believe that I could really get that done. It doesn’t cater to my strengths. Staying motivated is difficult if you don’t believe in yourself or your plan.

We’ll all have doubts even with the best formulated plans, so just answering this question doesn’t get it done either. No matter how well your plan is or how much you believe in yourself today, you will have days where you lose that confidence. How you handle that will either get your motivation back up, or start you on the path to throwing in the towel. To combat this, I go back to something that I was taught in a high school business class. I remember the teacher asking, “who thinks they can make a cheeseburger that is better than McDonalds?” Most of the class raised their hand. The follow up question from the teacher was “why do they have billions served and you don’t?” It was a lead in to discuss all the other elements that go into making a successful business, but I took some additional meaning from that. I can do things better than others that have reached success, and if I work smarter and harder, I can do well.

Another thing that I have found to help me is learning. Constantly learning. This comes in the form of reading books and articles, but also in reflecting on my past and what lessons I can learn, good or bad. This learning provides continued hope. I can always try something different. If I hit a roadblock, I can figure out a different way around it. The more I know, the better equipped I am to handle different situations that will arise.

We’re all different, so what works for me might not work for you, but the fundamentals are the same. Answer why you want to do this, and how you’re going to do it. Identify what feeds your motivation and seek these things proactively. Know that you will have down days, and prepare to deal with them ahead of time.

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