There is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when you have achieved a challenging goal. It could be reaching the North Pole or winning a new client, but nevertheless that feeling of success can provide the motivation required to take on another challenge. This can be a never-ending upward cycle, but these days with the pressures that we all face in the economic climate to maintain cash flow we can suddenly find ourselves conversely moving in the opposite direction, into helplessness.
Keeping yourself motivated and focused in business is one of the toughest tests that any entrepreneur faces today. And it’s no easy problem to overcome. Life in general is much more stressful now than it was a few years ago, as we seem to be expected to operate at full speed all the time. What with running a business, finding time to fit in family, social life, and paying attention to our health and well-being too, it’s not surprising that people find little time or energy to address the issue of motivation, yet it impacts on all these aspects of our lives.
My own experiences of trying to keep motivated relate to the Arctic environment. Having completed major expeditions to the North Pole, Antarctica and Greenland, I have had to battle against extreme tiredness, whilst pulling a heavy sledge in temperatures that were cold enough to freeze your flesh in seconds and try to keep focused and positive day after day. But regardless of whether you are in the world of the Arctic or a business environment, the ability to develop AND sustain high levels of motivation is critical to your ability to perform your job effectively.
There are no simple solutions, but there are four rules that I live by ensure I stay focused and motivated.
Be clear about what you want to achieve. It’s vital that you know what your goals or targets are, and to keep focused on achieving them. This sounds simple, but the reality of what actually happens in business can be quite different. We all know people who always appear busy, but who are not doing the tasks that will help them move towards their goals. If a person feels they are making progress then it is much more likely that this progress then generates more motivation to continue.
Become aware of what you focus on. Having the ability to focus on the short-term and the long term simultaneously is a valuable skill to have in a rapidly changing environment. Immediate problems can threaten our motivation and it’s important to remember to focus on what you can control, rather than what you cannot. All too often we spend too much time and energy focusing on the things that frustrate us rather than the things that give us pleasure. In the Arctic, it’s the choice between thinking about how cold and tired you are, or focusing on the stunning landscape and marvelling at how lucky you are to be able to appreciate this remote place.
Manage your emotions. When pressures get to us, we all behave in different ways. Some people may get angry and look for other people to blame, whilst others may feel out of control and helpless. But whatever we do, our emotions will impact on our motivation, and if we want to perform to the best of our ability, we need to learn to acknowledge and manage our emotions. On our Greenland expedition, I began to realise that I couldn’t keep up with the others in the team. The guy in front got frustrated with me and I felt inadequate and worthless. The pressure began to build and could have exploded if we both had not managed our emotions effectively. In the end I realised that crying was no good (my tears just froze) so I just had to change my mindset and think of the qualities I had that were valued in the team such as my sense of humour and organisational skills.
Be yourself. One of the most important abilities you need to have if you want to maintain your motivation is to just be yourself. It’s important to think about what you value, such as fairness, or honesty and then try to live up to those beliefs. Sometimes in business, people behave in a way that they think other people expect, rather than just being themselves. Authentic people stand out because what you see is what you get.