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On Monday mornings do you leap out of bed motivated and excited to start the day? Or are you pinned to the mattress by the sheer weight of despondency, like Road Runner squashed under an Acme boulder? The good news is that both extremes are normal and healthy for anyone running a business. It’s what puts us all in the same bracket as Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Anita Roddick. However talented, well-connected, inspired or wealthy we (or they) may be, becoming an entrepreneur means signing up not only to ride the glamorous surf of success, but to clean the toilets of trial and tribulation as well.
Does that news excite you? It should. Because even if you weren’t out on a limb for your own business, you’d still be facing those same ups and downs, and the adventure wouldn’t be half as rewarding, meaningful or personally transforming. Remember: Many of the big business issues you’re facing today was the stuff of your budding entrepreneurial daydreams not so long ago—publicizing your brand, sourcing investment for your project, meeting deadlines for your clients.
Research shows that most entrepreneurs are driven not by money, but by what could be described as game psychology. In an article for Forbes, venture capital consultant Jason Steiner lists what drives entrepreneurs: creativity, team building and meaningful achievements. None of these things is about needing life to be plain sailing. Competition needs to be competitive, creativity means coming up with something that didn’t exist before, and building a team means interacting with real people. What would be meaningful or adventurous about a business world if there was nothing to conquer or do battle with? Whether you feel it at this moment or not, the natural ebb and flow of every business thrives on the very challenges you’re facing. And deep down you know you’re in business not to escape these “awkwardnesses,” but to learn how to make the most of them.
Here are three practical suggestions to help reawaken your business drive and invest your heart and soul into every project and task.
Do you have a favorite pen? Or socks you feel particularly comfortable in? It’s okay, you don’t have to own up to it aloud, but seemingly silly things like this can make a serious difference to how you tackle your day. What about the decor in your office—have you always fancied owning an hourglass, or a Jackson Pollock print? Is there a particular genre of music, or a particular song, that keeps you inspired? Don't wait; surround yourself with feel-good influences right now. It’s not about splurging on the car of your dreams when it’s beyond your budget—that’s too obvious. Use your imagination and experiment with less stereotypical, more enriching versions of that "dream car." Consider those tokens a secret empowering wink to yourself that you’re headed way beyond the present mound of paperwork or difficult client.
Mike Dooley, in his book Infinite Possibilities, The Art of Living Your Dreams, claims that "the one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these." You don’t have to be harboring groundbreaking goals to recognize that no one is better positioned for your vital next step than you are at this moment. It’s your world you want to succeed in, not someone else’s version constructed to make flashy headlines—remember, sought-after media or industry accolades can disappear just as quickly as they appear.
In the Harvard Business Review article "The Power of Small Wins," Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer note the "progress principle"—that the single most important factor in boosting your emotions, motivations and perceptions during the course of your working day is "making progress in meaningful work." But what counts as meaningful?
During one of Steve Jobs' talks at Stanford University, he suggested that since we’re all basically mortal and naked, we actually have nothing to lose and everything to gain by following our hearts and going all in for that precious "something" that seems forever beyond our grasp. The pursuit in itself makes today’s work meaningful.
So, actively decide to cultivate and measure your success on your own terms and watch the contagious energy and inspiration start flooding back into the everyday nuts and bolts of your business life.
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