How to reliably build motivation and beat the business blahs

by | Jun 4, 2012

Have you ever wondered why the rockets used to launch satellites are large relative to the satellites themselves?

It’s because it takes 20 tons of fuel to launch a 1 ton satellite. It takes a fraction of that energy to keep it there.

The same principle applies to motivation in life and business.

It takes energy to generate motivation
Unless you happen to be motivated already (more about that below), it takes significant energy to generate motivation. When we don’t understand this, we beat ourselves up for not  sucking it up. We wonder if we just don’t have what it takes. We say things like, “I just can’t get motivated.”

You can feel pretty hopeless.

But when you realize that getting motivated takes a sizable input of energy, you can shift your attention from your lack of motivation to finding sources of that energy.

It’s a lot easier to stay motivated than to get motivated
Just as it’s easier for a satellite to stay in orbit than to get into orbit, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated than to get motivated. That’s why it’s so important to turn energy generating activities into rituals or habits.

Does spending time in nature give you a boost? Build a 10 minute walk into your workday.

Does reading inspirational literature light you up? Start your day with 15 minutes of reading.

Do you love the endorphin rush generated by intense exercise? Build it into your schedule, then keep your appointments with yourself.

Willpower isn’t motivating
Willpower alone doesn’t generate the energy to motivate you, in fact it requires energy. That’s why “just do it” doesn’t work unless you are predisposed to action.

That said, willpower is a powerful means of applying and sustaining the energy you need to get and keep yourself motivated.

Use your precious willpower to turn what energizes you into a habit. Remember, it’s going to take a larger commitment to build the habit than to maintain it, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

What to do when motivation tanks
Sometimes in spite of your good habits and attitudes, motivation simply tanks. It could be the result of bad news. It could follow on the heels of a prolonged bout of flu. Or it could simply be that you made a mistake. (Sue you.)

What do you do then?

Put the situation into context
When you’ve lost motivation, take the time to figure out what happened. Just naming the event can give you perspective.

Monitor your self-talk and intervene when you personalize, generalize, or exaggerate your temporary loss of motivation.

  • Remind yourself that the situation is temporary and that everybody has bad days.
  • Be specific about what happened. You forgot to pay a bill this month; you aren’t a walking financial disaster.
  • Measure the situation accurately. Even when things go really wrong, having accurate information is empowering.

Remember that it’s temporary
One reason it’s important to pay close attention when you do feel motivated is that it gives you a history you can draw on when motivation tanks.

You can reach back and re-experience feeling enthusiastic and confident.

You can remember what inspired you in the past.

And you can return to the habits that give you the energy you need to be motivated.

Motivation is transferable
A final word of encouragement: Motivation in one area of your life can be transferred to another. You don’t have to wait until marketing lights you up to be motivated to do it. You can tap into the motivation you feel for doing the work you love and transfer that motivation to marketing.

You can build on the feelings of belonging and engagement you enjoy with a circle of friends to fuel the motivation to define your niche or tribe.

You can draw from the feelings of well-being you experience after intense exercise to generate energy for speaking about your work.

So when you do something that generates positive feelings, soak up that energy. Imagine you are putting it into an energy bank account that you can draw on when you need it.

Build a launch team
It takes a team to launch a rocket, and it takes a team to build and sustain the energy of motivation. Join a mastermind group (I’ll be rolling out a new one later this month). Go to professional meetings. Have tea with your best friend.

With a launch team and an energy plan, you can reliably get into and maintain a motivation orbit.

Talk back: How does motivation or the lack of it affect you? What are your biggest motivation challenges? Your secrets to motivating yourself when you’re down? Click here to join the conversation at my blog.

Artist’s Rendering courtesy NASA Goddard Photo and Video