Nothing gets done unless we can motivate ourselves. No plans are created, let alone executed. You end up stuck in the same place unless you happen to be hit by an external event. You start to plan a new product or service because your competitor has launched. You replace the averagely performing co-director when they make a major error. The problem with this is that you’re always mediocre and reactive at best.
The solutions to the problem of how to self motivate are subtle but tools and tricks are learnable. They require self awareness and then self management. Goleman considers personal motivation to be one of the components of emotional intelligence (EQ).
The people who are able to easily self motivate effectively have a pool of energy to call on to get things done. They think and execute ahead of the competition and also provide energy to the teams they lead. Often the culture of the business shifts when led by an individual with high levels of self motivation as the team mirror and model the behaviours they see in their boss.
7 critical do’s and don’ts for self motivation
- Recognise that lack of self motivation is normally the result of physical/chemical or emotional/mental blockers. Your lack of self motivation is not a personality trait/ defect, but unless you correctly identify the blockers you run the risk of trying to solve the wrong underlying problem.
- Physical blockers to self motivation start with lack of glucose. Glucose is the body’s basic fuel and provides power to most physical functions. Interestingly for motivation, glucose is the dominant fuel used by the brain cells of people on diets with a standard carb mix. Often a mental task seems so difficult because we are glucose depleted. Crack a red bull or eat an apple to give yourself an immediate boost, but more importantly adopt a diet which gives you a constant slow delivery of glucose.
- Stress hormones chemically block our belief in our own ability to get things done. Some executives remain in a fairly perpetual state of stress, with their motivation suffering accordingly. Exercise is one of the best ways of giving stress an outlet. And try and balance the caffeine: enough to stimulate, but not so much that you hit that edgy feeling. The stress is kicking in.
- Our emotions can make or break us. An obvious statement as long as you’re self aware enough in the moment to recognise when your emotions have a grip on you. You need to apply a mental checklist to evaluate what belief sub-routine you are running: do you believe you can do what you’re lacking the motivation to do? Have you an experience which is tarnishing your belief? – the first stage of the solution is to write down or talk to someone you trust about your beliefs
- Separate lack of skills from lack of belief and ask yourself the question, ‘how do I get the skills/ belief?’ The answer is always the same: knowledge. The great thing with knowledge is you can buy it or acquire it. Go on the course, hire the new specialist or engineer a way of getting some rapid experience by shadowing/ working on the front-line or interviewing those heavily involved in the area.
- Self management needs to kick-in when you’ve isolated mental blockers to your motivation. Is your task too big/ too unmanageable? Break down what you have to do into smaller/ more manageable steps
- Think of self motivation as a muscle you can exercise. In the same way as conditioning yourself to go to the gym, condition your motivation muscle by starting with small and light exercises everyday. Do something you don’t normally do that takes effort. Repeat this the next day… and the next. Soon you will mentally become someone who is able to motivate themselves to do things.
Self motivation as a skill suffers from a lack of appreciation that it is capable of being worked on, and that the solutions are as varied as the causes of the problem. The impacts of lack of self motivation on you and your company are, however, serious and worthy of you mastering some of the techniques listed above.