By Nancy Wurtzel
Motivation. It’s a complicated subject that is studied by many and understood by few. Virtually every aspect of human life -- from the mundane to the life-changing -- is guided, swayed and altered by motivating factors.
For instance, what to have for dinner may be motivated by a desire to lose or gain weight. Whether or not to attend a business seminar may be motivated by the speakers, location and cost. When and where to buy new clothing may be motivated by a long list of personal preferences as well as the changing seasons and weather conditions.
Even reading this article is a motivated behavior. Do you like the style of writing? Are you curious about the subject matter? Do you have a desire to learn new information? Do you have enough time to finish reading? If the answers are no, you probably won’t continue reading!
But since you have continued, you are obviously motivated. You want to learn more about how to get and stay motivated, and how this motivation can help you become a better business owner.
The Business of Motivation
Motivation is one of the most powerful driving forces in the workplace. It can mean the difference between tremendous success and failure.
Motivation stems from two sources. The first part of motivation is external or extrinsic (outside the person) sources. Other motivating factors come from internal forces, which are mainly your thoughts, patterns and collective experiences.
However, humans are unique, so what motivates Jack will not necessarily motivate Jill. You -- and only you -- will be able to determine what works.
Take the time to examine what internal and external factors are motivating you as a business owner. What can you do to enhance and refine your motivation to make yourself more productive and more fulfilled?
Here are seven keys to motivation that may prove helpful.
1. Inspiration . Inspiration is critical to getting and staying motivated. If you are not interested in your business, your motivation level will never be high and you won’t be able to sustain interest for very long.
On the flip side, if you are energized and excited about the work you are doing, you will have more persistence, energy and intensity.
Take an honest look at your inspiration level. Are you excited about going to work or is it an obligation? You would be surprised at the number of people who choose a business that looks good on paper, but in reality does not interest them in the least. These individuals will grow weary and uninterested pretty quickly because they have no inspiration or passion to sustain them during the difficult times they will encounter as a small business owner.
If you don’t really enjoy your work, then think how you can re-focus your small business to better match your needs. Or consider making a change entirely. That’s pretty drastic advice, but inspiration is that important.
2. Setting Goals. Short and long-term goal setting is vital for any business owner. If you didn’t set goals, you would be adrift with nothing to strive for and no charted course to follow.
How could you possibly be motivated if you were unsure about the direction of your company?
Take the time to put your goals in writing. A business plan may sound daunting, but it is really nothing more than goals, strategies, implementation and a budget. Write your own business plan and update it at least annually. Include mini-goals that can be accomplished in a matter of hours, days or weeks as well as the more ambitious grand-goals that may take years to complete. Refer to this plan throughout the year.
But can a business plan really help motivate you? Yes! Written goals will make you feel more professional and certainly more connected to your business. It will also free you from having to reinvent your business goals every single day.
3. Networking . Another key factor in getting and staying motivated is networking with other small business owners. One person can't move huge mountains. However, when a number of people begin working together the mountains are suddenly only small hills -- simply challenges waiting to be surmounted.
In fact, the isolation of working alone is one of the most difficult parts of being an entrepreneur. Mutual support is motivating. So, make it easier on yourself by connecting with others either in your community or online. Even when businesses are not related, you will often find common ground and ways to work together.
Many successful entrepreneurs report that finding the right networking group was a turning point in the growth of the business. Working together, a networking group can help its members generate more qualified sales leads and solve problems faster and more efficiently. Sharing ideas, expertise and experience is also an invaluable aspect of networking groups. And, don’t forget about sharing costs, possibly by buying in bulk or with joint marketing projects.
Your own personal team of business owners will help re-energize you when the burdens of running your own business seem too much. With your networking team to rely on, you can accomplish more in less time and probably have more fun in the process. Certainly, you will feel less alone.
4. Reward Yourself. Small business owners will always have to work hard, but all work and no play is a huge mistake. Your motivation will soon begin to fall if you never take any time away from the demands of running the business.
So, plan frequent rewards for yourself. No, it doesn’t need to be a trip to Hawaii (although this is a great idea). Your reward can be as simple as a lunch out with an old friend, a matinee with your significant other, an afternoon of shopping or a relaxing massage.
If your budget and time will allow, take a few days off for a short trip or simply schedule a vacation from work for a few days. Make it a real vacation -- even if you don’t leave town -- so no checking email, voice mail or the fax machine. You need to get away, unwind and renew yourself. This down time to regenerate will help improve your attitude and perspective. It sounds corny, but you will come back to your business with a new sense of motivation.
5. Exercise. While it isn’t always immediately apparent, there is a powerful connection between the mind and the body. It is vital for every small business owner to take breaks and exercise -- everyday. If your body isn’t healthy, your motivation will certainly suffer.
These exercise breaks don’t have to be huge blocks of time, and you needn’t spend money joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer. Start by walking briskly for 30 minutes before, during or after work. After you have incorporated a walk each day, then try doubling the time or doing two walks each day.
Whatever works for you is best, but the important thing is to start. You will begin to feel better.
After the walking is part of your routine, add some basic light weights. Buy a video or go online to find out how to properly use the weights so you won’t injure yourself.
You can keep the weights under your desk, and use them for just a few minutes at a time. Buy a timer the next time you are at the grocery store. Set the timer for three minutes to start and then add a minute or two until you’re up to 10 or 15 minutes each day.
Some small business owners have a television at work and they schedule a CNN break along with their weights. This way, they are catching up with world and local news while simultaneously getting some moderate exercise.
6. Organize. Organization is critical to motivation. How can you feel good about your work, when you can’t find important papers or you are constantly late returning messages? Your business will falter and your motivation will suffer.
Some people just can’t get organized. If you are one of them, then consider bringing in someone -- a business friend, family member or professional -- to help you get the clutter and mess cleaned up. You will be amazed at how this one important step will help you get back on the organizational track. Don’t stop there. Now really get organized by creating business systems that will help you streamline your operations.
The real challenge will be staying on track by maintaining these systems. For many, it is a daily challenge, but if you use your organizational systems you’ll be free to think about other important issues.
7. Motivational Speakers and Authors. As small business owners, it seems we are bombarded with motivational ideas and materials -- tapes, books, CDs, seminars, workbooks, videos and more. Why are there so many different motivational products, authors and speakers? Because people are buying these materials. Used effectively, they are effective and therefore they sell!
However, there are so many different motivational gurus that it is often difficult to see through the clutter to find someone that makes sense for you -- someone who can get you fired up about improving your business.
Try talking to your mentor or networking group members to see who they might recommend. Start being aware of the motivational industry and how it might help you become more enthused and positive about your business. Do some light research of your own to find some authors and speakers that interest you.
Before you invest in motivational materials, you can probably find some inexpensive ways to obtain the materials. Check out your local library, tune into your local PBS station, buy materials with a networking friend, visit used bookstores or buy used materials online. Don’t make a huge investment, because you will probably want to sample many different viewpoints.
But do these materials really work? Yes, but only if you make the effort. Just like exercise, you have to work the muscles -- in this case your mind muscles.
It is up to you to take that information and apply it to your own life and business. Really use the motivational ideas over a period of time and you will begin to see results.
Keep the Momentum Going
Motivation is what moves us forward in our daily and business lives. But in the final analysis, it is up to you to make the decision to take action and then follow through.
Take the time to examine your motivating factors and use some of these keys to improve your focus and renew your enthusiasm. If you keep on track, the motivation momentum can’t help but carry you forward.
About the Author
Nancy Wurtzel is the founder and owner of All About Baby, an ecommerce company located online at www.allbaby.com. All About Baby offers personalized and memorable baby gifts for children. In addition to a wide product selection, All About Baby also features helpful and interesting site content. In addition to running her own business, Nancy consults with other small business owners providing advice about growing their ecommerce sites.