Pivot to Your Purpose . . .
Motivation is an Inside Job

Motivation is an Inside Job The victories and challenges of growing your own business can feel like riding a roller coaster. Blips in sales, investment or employee turnover that can easily be absorbed in a larger organization can bring a small start-up to a halt. But one of the greatest resources you have is your own motivation to ride the highs and lows and jump on emerging opportunities.

Still, your supply of motivation is not endless. How can you find or rekindle that drive to keep going and growing in tune with your purpose?

Outside in or inside out?

One of the most studied areas in motivation science is whether that drive comes from external sources or from within. Extrinsic motivation drives us to pursue goals to gain a certain reward or avoid a negative outcome. By contrast, intrinsic motivation drives us to perform tasks because we find the activities themselves inherently enjoyable and rewarding.

Although we often assume we need that external carrot or stick, research shows they are not effective at creating long-term results. That’s really important to know, because building a business is not a flash in the pan sort of activity. A big part of your success will depend on your ability to remain motivated.

In fact, external rewards can actually decrease intrinsic motivation to pursue tasks you may already find interesting and satisfying. Hopefully, that describes many of the tasks involved in building your business. Even reconciling accounts receivable? Yes, even that — or whatever task you might first think of as unappealing.

Research shows that we often underestimate our ability to create our own intrinsic rewards, even in so-called boring situations. In workplace studies, people predict they will have far less engagement in a boring task than they actually do once they start it. We have greater power to generate our own intrinsic rewards than we realize.

In research with students, those who studied a subject to earn an “A” tested well on the material in the short term. But those who studied because they were interested in the subject retained far more learning over the longer haul. Intrinsic motivation carries the day.

Making it work at work

To inspire yourself (and others) to action in a work setting, there are several proven ways to light the fires of intrinsic motivation, according to research published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Believe in your ability to perform the required activity with skill. You can increase conviction in yourself and others by recognizing small victories, setting challenging but attainable goals, seeking objective feedback about your performance, eliminating barriers and practicing affirming self-talk.

Remember your why. Step back to look at the big picture to remind yourself why you launched your business in the first place.  Because you’re amazing at what you do? You wanted more freedom and control over your life? To secure your family’s financial future? To escape an unfulfilling job? A strong fit between work purpose and personal ideals helps drive intrinsic motivation.

Exercise autonomy over your own behaviors and choices. No wonder the desire to control your own destiny is one of the top reasons that founders say they started a business. You are all about calling your own shots and the ability to do so increases motivation.

Recognize your impact. Observing the connection between activity and results helps drive motivation. When you know your actions contribute to accomplishing your long-term goals, dreams and even the greater good, you want to do more of them.

You can also tap motivation science to help employees dig in and perform more effectively. Consider empowering and trusting team members to use their skills, assigning a broader range of tasks to keep things interesting, sharing regular feedback about performance, allowing greater autonomy for work completion and illustrating how their activities contribute to larger goals and other people.

Of course, there will be moments when motivation lags. But knowing how to rekindle your passion and purpose will help you safeguard and build one of the most valuable resources an entrepreneur could have — your own desire to do.