- Flexibility, control and legacy are common entrepreneurial motivations.
- Being in the right headspace helps you maintain your entrepreneurial motivation when challenges arise.
- A positive attitude, meditation and a strong support system can help you sustain your enthusiasm for running your business.
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.
Why is motivation important for an entrepreneur?
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, a business consultant for iFour Technolab, 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 Teralyn Sell, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Inner Strength Counseling and Recovery. "Motivation is the workhorse behind your ideas."
How do I sustain my motivation when starting a business?
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.
1. Be in the right headspace.
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 overwhelming, 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.
2. Use meditation to reflect.
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."
3. Surround yourself with motivational people.
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.
4. Create a strong mission statement.
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.
5. Focus on your mental health.
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." [Read related article: How Entrepreneurs Can Stop Burnout Syndrome]
6. Focus on your physical health.
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.
7. Plan ahead.
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 each day 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.
8. Set a realistic schedule for yourself.
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 am 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.
9. Incentivize yourself.
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.
10. Create a routine.
The best way to motivate yourself long-term is to create a routine. Studies say it takes the average person between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, and 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. 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.
What are the types of entrepreneur motivations?
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.
- Flexibility is a valuable benefit of entrepreneurship. Working for a company or someone else might require long hours that leave you feeling overworked, overextended or bored. When you work for yourself, you may still put in long hours – maybe even more than you would working for someone else – but you have the freedom to structure those hours how you want.
- Control is similar to flexibility in terms of power over your own goals and productivity. More importantly, you have direct control over your success and livelihood. While calling the shots is freeing, it does require you to be reliable and efficient.
- Legacy in business is the desire to create something long-lasting that can produce generational wealth, with value or an impact to a wide group of people that lasts lifetimes. A successful business can span multiple generations.
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.
What makes a great entrepreneur?
One of the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur is resilience. A good businessperson plans for obstacles, learns from failures and chooses to keep moving forward.
"Write down your lessons and wins regularly," Wamala said. "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."
Additional reporting by Skye Schooley