The following is adapted from Mark’s forthcoming book, “You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader”, to be released by Currency, Fall 2006.
This new year holds the promise of great opportunity as well as great challenges. To deal with both, a leader needs Self Motivation.
Motivation is, as the word itself suggests, a motive for action. Self Motivation Definition is, basically, the reasons for what you do. Knowing what to do and how to do it is an important part of leadership, but only two thirds of what makes any leader effective.
You can do the wrong things for the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons, but leaders do the right things for the right reasons.
As I’ve spoken with leaders over the years, I’ve often heard them talk about how important it is to motivate others; to keep the fires of passion and commitment burning in their teammates and colleagues.
How to Self Motivate?
Leaders help uncover those reasons and provide that motivation for those they influence.
Yet one of the most unaddressed questions of leadership is:
Who motivates the motivator? If the leader motivates others, who motivates the leader?
The answer is that the leader motivates himself or herself.
Do you know how to stay motivated? To get a great answer, begin by asking the ultimate question.
The Ultimate Question
What is the meaning of life?
Philosophers and theologians have devoted their lives to attempting to answer that question. Arguments have ensued and wars have been fought over this question.
It is, indeed, a difficult question to answer.
It is, however, an essential question to wrestle with. Leaders, titled and non-titled alike, need to understand not just what they do, but why they do it.
The objective of You Don’t Need a Title… isn’t to answer that question head-on. What I hope to do is provide a question to start with. The key to staying motivated is this:
What gives your life meaning?
I have observed that two of the quickest ways for leaders to burn out is to stop doing what they enjoy and to move away from the people who matter to them.
The more successful you become, the greater the risk that you’ll move into a position that will take you away from doing those things you’re really good at doing, and really like to do. You’ll also assume a greater workload, and there is a possibility you’ll get less time to spend with those you enjoy and care for.
Whenever you start to feel listless and lacking passion, ask yourself, what gives my life meaning? The answer, more often than not, will tell you what you need to do to recapture enthusiasm.
13 Strategies for Self Motivation
There are other Self Motivation techniques you can use to motivate yourself.
1) Renew through relationships
As mentioned above, you should never have to sacrifice friendships and family relationships to be a positive influencer. It should alarm you if you are able to maintain business and social relationships, but fail at staying close to the people who really matter at home.
It isn’t enough to enjoy healthy relationships with friends and family. When you have the choice of whom to associate with, choose those who inspire and challenge you, not just those you are comfortable being around.
2) Take time to reflect
How many lessons do you miss because you don’t take time to reflect on what is happening in your life and what you can learn from it?
At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned. What you have done that day is important, but you can increase the value of each activity and happening by extracting the meaning from it through reflection.
Remember that you can learn from reflecting on what others are doing as well. You can learn from bad leaders as well as good leaders if you analyze their behavior and reflect on the lesson you can take away.
Don’t let incessant activity push out dream time. While there are those who only dream and never do—the daydreamers—there are also those leaders who are so pre-occupied with day-to-day tasks that they lose the fuel of dreaming. They don’t aspire high enough, either for themselves or their organizations. What would you really like to see happen in your life and the lives of those around you?
4) Schedule growth-producing activities
The only way to grow your impact is by growing yourself. Growth is always accomplished outside of one’s comfort zone. If you only do what you’ve always done, you’ll never master new skills.
Growth can also come not just through reading and reflection, but through journaling. An inexpensive journal is a good way to capture growth-producing insights.
Listen to an audiotape, watch a DVD or take a course. Just make sure that you have an infusion of new ideas and chances to develop new skills.
5) Take a nap
I once heard weariness defined as the exhaustion of pleasure. An important clue that you need to get caught up on your rest is when the things that formerly gave you pleasure no longer do.
You can substitute caffeine and energy drinks for legitimate sleep only so long before you begin to lose the fuel of true energy: sleep and health.
6) Shadow other leaders
Learn from leaders you admire. Don’t just read about them—observe them first hand. Find role models worthy of your attention, those who lead in the manner you aspire to lead and those who have impacted others as you desire to influence.
7) Retreat to advance
At least once a year, if not more frequently, set aside a day to review your life. Remove yourself from the distractions of a typical day. This will most likely require “retreating” to a location where you are inspired and inaccessible by phone.
8) Mentor someone
You’ll know you are making an impact when someone approaches you and asks you to be their mentor. You could initiate the process, but similar to the saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will come” is the idea that when you are ready to mentor the mentee will show up.
One of the best ways to internalize what you know is to share it with others. Being able to build into the life of an aspiring leader is not only a way to help in the growth of another, but a revitalizing way to stay motivated.
9) Take care of your health
It is hard to live a high-performance life in a low-performance body. That isn’t to suggest that you need to become fanatical about your health. It does mean that you should take care of yourself. You won’t have much to give others—individuals or organizations—if you destroy your health.
10) Enjoy the journey
Yes, I know that sounds corny. I can visualize a review glomming onto this idea as an example of tried and trite. So be it. The reality is—and this comes from personal experience—we often become so immersed in the journey that we don’t actually enjoy it.
How stupid would it be if you consciously said, “I’m going on vacation, but I have not intention of enjoying myself?” Yet that is exactly what happens when a leader become too busy to take time to appreciate the process.
How do you accomplish this? Pause to be grateful. Gratefulness creates a great fullness of heart. A positive attitude is a wonderful thing, but I believe gratefulness is the ultimate antidote to negativity.
Take time to enjoy the little pleasures in life and not just the significant life events.
11) Clarify your values
Roy Disney said when values are clear, decision making is easy. I can’t think of anything as important to success as a leader than truly knowing what is important to you, which means having boundaries defined by values.
It is this consistency of the inner and outer life that enables a leader to live from the inside out.
12) Live like a victor of circumstance
Bad stuff happens to good people. This is inevitable. Yet it is easy to spend too much time as a victim, trying to figure out why the bad stuff happened, than to respond as victors with a resilience that says, “This is bad. So what am I going to do to make it better?”
The choice is simple: learn from the situation or languish in it. The next time you encounter a problem, remember: This is a test. What is the lesson?
13) Search for the Pony
An old and familiar joke illustrates perfectly the attitude of the leader who takes responsibility for his or her life, even those circumstances they don’t completely control.
Twin boys were born to two happy parents, but as the children developed, the parents noticed a dramatic outlook each had on life.
One little boy was completely negative. His perspective was consistently one of gloom and doom. No matter what happened, the little boy was downhearted. He was able to find a rain cloud in the sunniest sky.
The other boy was buoyant, and looked at everything positively. No matter what happened, this child could literally find the silver lining in the darkest rain cloud.
The parents began to worry that each child had a problem. One Christmas they attempted a bold experiment to change the twins’ disposition.
For the negative boy, they bought the most wonderful gifts: a new bike, a train set, board games and other fun diversions.
For the positive boy, they gave a pile of horse manure and nothing more.
When Christmas morning came, the negative boy was led into a room containing all his wonderful gifts. His negative response was predictable: “The bike will become dirty and scratched the first time I ride it and the other toys will break or wear out.”
Then they brought in their other son who, upon seeing the pile of manure meant for him, instantly shouted in glee and shocked his parents by jumping into the manure and digging frantically.
“What are you doing?” They exclaimed.
He replied, “With all this manure there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
Both boys had an extreme and—joke aside—unrealistic view of life. But the positive boy’s response makes a valid point. When something happens the challenge is to search for the pony.
I wish for you and those you lead and love a most prosperous and joy-filled new year.