At the base of every business is the ardor and dedication of an entrepreneur with a goal. Working for yourself is an incredible feat that can be extremely challenging. Many resolutions rest on your shoulders, like the structure of your business, company culture and even whether your company continues to run. It’s a lot for one person to carry, and sometimes running a business feels overwhelming.
It’s not always disorganization or a lack of cash flow that brings a company to its knees. Enthusiasm can be short-lived, and a negative attitude is a silent killer. As our emotions shift, it can be hard to keep that passion for your business steady, especially when new challenges come along. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage and sustain your motivation so you don’t burn out.
Motivation is important for an entrepreneur for the same reason fuel is important for a plane: Nothing gets off the ground without it. A business isn’t always booming with profit or celebrating achievements. Completing mundane or difficult tasks is a daily necessity, and it’s your ambition that will push you through it to keep striving for your goals.
“Motivation can boost an entrepreneur’s confidence to match their goals,” Shagun Chauhan, business development manager at Brightness Group BV, told business.com. “Recognition, esteem and self-actualization fulfill you. Motivated thoughts allow you to think more productively and experiment with new ideas.”
Your drive is also tied to your dopamine reward pathways, which make you want to keep going or do something again, said Dr. Teralyn Sell, licensed psychotherapist, brain health specialist, and owner of Inner Strength Counseling and Recovery. “Motivation is the workhorse behind your ideas.”
There are several ways entrepreneurs can sustain motivation when starting a business. Follow this expert advice to find the best tips that work for you.
Being in the right headspace is important. To stay motivated, you can’t allow fear of failure or bumps in the road to knock you off your path. When you focus on your strengths, the future of your company becomes clearer. Your general mindset is a crucial factor in sustaining your positive energy.
“Think of the Little Engine That Could,” Sell said. “He knew he wanted to get over the mountain to bring the toys to all of the boys and girls on the other side. And when self-doubt began to creep in, the little engine repeated over and over to himself, ‘I think I can, I think I can.’ As new business owners, it’s imperative you do the same.”
Starting a business can be challenging, and it can be difficult to stay motivated when you hit a roadblock. When those issues arise, so does fear, which is why protecting your headspace is key to overcoming them. [Read related: How to Learn from Your Failures: 4 Valuable Lessons]
Chauhan recommends breaking down your process to understand exactly what is needed to complete your workload. He also recommends meditation to help you clear out your thoughts and focus on the progress you’ve made. This reflection strengthens your fortitude against stress or disappointment and pushes you to learn from your past mistakes.
“Practice daily mindset shifts,” Sell said. “Put out positive energy and create some new neurological pathways to keep you going. It’s easy to slip down in the dumps when things get tough, but mental toughness is key to your success.”
Aside from a good attitude, it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people who share your goals. Not only will this give you a support system, but being around other motivated individuals who encourage you and hold you accountable makes it harder to quit. A good group of successful people can inspire you and keep you on the right path.
Lack of motivation can work its way through your organization. It’s especially important to ensure your employees remain happy during down times.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your mission statement either. A strong mission statement that you and your employees understand and believe in can help you set company goals, avoid missteps and stay motivated when you face rough patches.
If you find that your determination ebbs and flows, this fluctuation might be due to your mental health, explained Sell. When you have an imbalance of neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin, your enthusiasm is more apt to burn out.
“You might start off with a dopamine push like, ‘What a great idea!'” Sell said. “But [when you] lack drive or reward, you fizzle out. If you are stressed out, your cortisol might be impacted, and you may feel fatigued or depressed. If this sounds like you, then get those levels checked out before your big idea gets off the ground.”
Starting a business is a big venture that requires a lot of time and energy. Many aspiring entrepreneurs pay so much attention to their new business that they forget to focus on themselves. It may not seem important, but your physical health can play a major role in your motivation to keep going. Drinking a lot of water, eating balanced meals and getting enough physical exercise will help keep your body running efficiently so you can focus on creating a successful business.
Additionally, one of the biggest mistakes a new entrepreneur can make is burning the candle at both ends. Getting enough sleep each night is imperative to maintaining long-term motivation. There is often no task so important that it can’t be left until morning – and with a well-rested mind, it may be easier to accomplish the next day anyway.
Planning ahead and setting reminders can help you stay on track throughout the day. Create a schedule of the things you want to accomplish each day, week, month, etc. Set alarms daily to remind yourself when it’s time to focus on specific tasks and when it’s time to take breaks. There are productivity apps that can help with this as well.
One way to achieve goals and stay motivated is by understanding your working habits and creating a realistic process that coincides with them. For example, if you are not a morning person, setting the goal of waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day might result in you accidentally over-sleeping, derailing your daily schedule and ultimately giving up. Instead, shift your working hours later in the day (or whatever schedule works best) to create a realistic workday that you are likely to adhere to.
Everyone loves a reward. When you’re starting a business, it can be easy to get so focused on “what’s next” that you forget to celebrate the little victories. Keep track of your milestones – big and small – and reward yourself when you reach them. Recognizing each challenge and achievement is a great way to remind yourself how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished.
The best way to motivate yourself long-term is to create a routine. The British Journal of Health Psychology said it takes the average person two to three months to form a new habit, and 59 days for a new behavior to become automatic; although this can be more or less, depending on the individual and habit type. Create a routine to stay you on track – if you stick with it long enough, you may just be automatically motivated to work without having to think twice.
Contrary to popular belief, money isn’t the only motivator. Entrepreneurial motivations include flexibility, control and legacy, said Jacent Wamala, licensed therapist and owner of Wamala Wellness.
Each motivation falls under one of two categories – intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the internal form of motivation that comes from a personal desire to fulfill your goals and achieve individual ambitions and personal satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards like money, praise and fame.
Understanding your motivation and what drives you will help you focus on your goals. When your underlying purpose is clear, you won’t feel as overwhelmed or discouraged when things change or you encounter obstacles.
“Having a solid understanding of why you are starting a business will remind you of the necessity to continue in the face of adversity,” Wamala said. “Write down your lessons and wins regularly. Create boundaries to avoid burnout. Seek peer support or mentorship to have a community that you feel understands you. A great entrepreneur is flexible and a lifelong learner.”
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.