I’d like to think of myself as a fairly motivated person.
But I’m like anybody else when it comes to pursuing my goals: I start out strong and full of energy, but I lose steam and have trouble staying motivated.
Everyone has fluctuations of energy, as well as good days and bad days.
But keeping sight of that goal and following it through is about following certain core principles.
I’ve watched friends and colleagues start and stop many projects and goals in life that had enormous potential. But they weren’t following these principles.
Here’s how to keep your motivation and achieve your goals as well of those of employees if you run a business.
1) Understand the difference between internal and external motivation
External motivation matters:
Think of the company CEO with a vision who inspires and disciplines employees to raise their level.
This is extremely important.
But external motivation eventually falls short and that’s where you need internal drive.
Internal motivation is your belief in yourself, in your vision and ability to grow from discomfort and risk.
Internal motivation kept Steve Jobs monkeying around with Apple computer prototypes in his garage even when most people thought he was just an air-headed nerd.
Your internal motivation keeps you going even when times are hard, confusing or undetermined.
2) Be a self-starter and cultivate internal motivation when pursuing entrepreneurship or self-employment
Taking the above example of Jobs, we can really see the importance of being a self-starter if you want to stay motivated.
Jobs didn’t care if the outside world found his idea “realistic”: he had a vision and his internal motivation kept him going.
Jobs was hard to work with according to some, but he was still right.
The approval or disapproval of others can’t be your fuel, because eventually it will run out or go against your goals!
When you hit those long lonely stretches of your journey it’s going to be you, your vision and your grit that keeps you going and growing.
3) Avoid relying solely on external rewards or punishments for motivation
Jobs is clearly a rare example of extraordinary success and vision.
We don’t all find outer success and wealth, and many of us have to keep a second job while chasing a dream.
There’s no shame in that, whatsoever, and the true victory is in the attempt, and it’s important to avoid chasing gold stars you’re whole life or avoiding punishment.
To be truly motivated and aspirational you need to find something more important than this.
We all enjoy a little (or big) bonus, and none of us want to be punished in our job or by our industry.
Reward or punishment should never be the primary motivator for what you’re doing.
Instead, I recommend you to:
4) Identify and pursue activities that align with your personal interests and values
It’s crucial to find at least one activity, interest or career goal that directly aligns with your core values and what you love to do.
This is the kind of thing you do where you lose track of time and where you feel completely like yourself while doing it.
It might be sailing, building a home, creating art, playing music, starting a new software company, or volunteering to help at a food bank.
Whether it’s related to your career journey or more of a personal interest, the important part is this:
You have at least one activity or pursuit that you love which also aligns completely with what you stand for.
5) Find a deep sense of purpose and passion in what you are doing
Finding a deep sense of a mission and loving what you do is key in your plans and career.
To keep motivated, there needs to be a real reason for doing what you’re doing.
Whether you work for yourself or for somebody else, what’s keeping you there?
If the answer is just money, then you need a very firm and compelling reason that you want the money: what are you using it for?
What dream are you working towards, what goal keeps you waking up when the alarm sounds?
Optimally that goal is more than just money and is aligned with your deeper purpose and what you love to do in life:
To teach, to build, to communicate, to exercise, to create, to organize.
Whatever your passion and mission is, finding it and putting it into practice is the key to keeping your motivation.
Do what you do for a reason that aligns with what you love and your values!
6) Fully engage in the task at hand and persist even in facing obstacles
When you find your mission and a firm reason for doing what you’re doing, stick with it!
Double down on what you’re good at and take heart when challenges arise.
Even setbacks and temporary failure can be a learning experience.
Don’t take obstacles personally, either:
We all face them and they are often unfair, whether they’re financial, health-related or personal.
Keep working, keep your mission in mind and don’t worry if you need to adjust course a few times.
As long as you are still following your passion and working for a reason that’s enduringly meaningful to you, you’re on the right path despite the obstacles that come up.
7) Understand motivation theories and how they can be applied in organizations
Motivation theories are an important part of keeping a company productive and energized.
I highly recommend researching these a bit whether you’re an employee or an employer, because they’ll help you greatly in your own work life and work with others.
Influential motivation theories include:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs is well known and respected.
It posits that everybody needs basic needs like food, shelter and earning a living filled, before moving to more complex and advanced levels such as social belonging and having a compelling moral ideology.
In terms of organizations it means employees need to be taken care of and cared about before you can expect them to perform more highly.
Hertzberg’s Motivational Theory: Herzeberg’s theory says people have two main needs: to work in a well-organized, fair environment while also having incentives to work harder and better.
Thus while good relations with colleagues, a well-organized structure and clear responsibilities will keep employees relatively satisfied, they also require more to get motivated.
These include things like salary incentives, promotions and a reward structure of some kind to feel more motivated within the organization.
McClelland’s Theory of Needs: Psychologist David McClelland’s influential theory of needs says everybody has one of three primary factors that motivates them.
These are seeking achievement and success in tasks at work, seeking to be validated and belong at work, and seeking power in terms of a leadership position or control over the work of others.
Understanding which powers you or your employees is key to keeping everyone maximally motivated.
The Vroom Expectancy Theory: This theory says people’s main motivation comes from what people expect out of the future.
When employees feel they have the tools and support to succeed they tend to work much harder because they expect accomplishment and advancement in the future.
In other words: give people hope for the future and a company will thrive.
8) Assess the needs and aspirations of employees to implement effective motivational strategies
As the above motivational theories show, labor theorists and psychologists tend to converge on certain basics:
- Employees need to work in a good environment
- Employees need hope for the future
- Employees do much better when they feel welcome and valued at work
If you have employees it’s a great idea to look deeper into the motivation theories above and start implementing strategies to keep your company moving forward.
9) Provide resources, support, and recognition for employees to achieve their goals
It’s important for employees to feel valued and know that their efforts are seen and recognized.
Having support and resources for career advancement is an important part of building great organizations.
In your own life, knowing what you want to accomplish and using the resources in place to keep advancing is also key.
We’re all more motivated when we know that the mark we’re making isn’t just in our own mind.
10) Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of motivational strategies and adjust as needed
As with anything, once you implement or follow motivational strategies, it’s important to check up and adjust them.
Are these strategies working for your employees?
If you’re implementing them in your own life are they working for you?
Do you feel closer to your purpose in life and have moments of passion in your work? Do your employees or colleagues?
Pay attention to detail, feedback and even small adjustments.
There’s always room to grow and evolve as you continue to build a highly motivational environment for yourself and others to reach their full potential.