People go after big goals only to lose their drive or fail. Why? They lack real motivation. Learn the ingredients to find yours.
A lot of people go after goals in business or in life only to find themselves not making progress and losing their drive. Think of all the broken New Years Resolutions people make each year. Why is that? Your goal may be fine, but you may not have a good enough reason to go for it. That is, you may lack real motivation.
Real motivation has four key components to it:
Deep within you
Your true motivation must live in a very deep part of you. It’s something that is always with you, and so personal and strong, it could bring you to tears. For most parents, the answer is often tied to your kids. For some people I’ve worked with, it’s something tied to their mortality. For others, it’s about wanting a better life than what they grew up with. Wanting to feel pride in themselves every day, rather than shame or sadness, drives other people I’ve coached.
True motivation must endure. It shouldn’t be something tied to a specific event that will pass. How can you stay motivated by something that stops? When I share my motivation, which is to be there and be a great example for my son throughout his life, it helps drive the point home. This isn’t about a specific event I want to be fit for, like a high school reunion, or something I want to be able to afford to buy like a new car. My son isn’t going anywhere, and my responsibilities to him as his father don’t end.
If it isn’t obvious yet, your motivators need to be big, powerful things in your life. They shouldn’t be frivolous or petty. Surviving, inspiring your kids, being there to provide for your family, having an impact on the market or society, being there to enjoy life with your family — these are big, powerful, profound things.
Some people are motivated by money and having things. I’ve certainly worked hard and been driven to succeed professionally, and by extension financially. But the problem with material motivators is that they’re outside of you and can come and go. They might be big or expensive, but that doesn’t make them profound. They lack that deep connection to your inner self, and instead focus you on the outside world to things that are fleeting.
That’s not to say that aspiring to be the CEO of a company is necessarily material. That depends on the why — your reason. Do you want the role because CEOs tend to be well paid, or do you want it because you want to be a leader with great responsibility and the ability to grab opportunity and transform an organization? If it’s the latter, you will choose to invest in yourself for your personal and professional growth. You will work on inspiring others as a leader. You will work on developing your business savvy and acumen to find and seize opportunities, creating rewards and jobs for others.
Think about what drives you, and whether it fits these four pillars of successful motivation. If not, probe deeper within yourself, ask the tough questions and challenge your answers. Once you unlock your true motivation, you unlock the key to achievement.
This post is inspired by my best-selling book, “Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Every Day” available in print, ebook and audiobook formats. It originally appeared in my Inc.com column on July 5th, 2017