As entrepreneurs, most of us are very good at starting new things. We generate ideas, develop new businesses, and keep coming up with what’s new and fresh and of the moment. There is nothing quite like the intoxication of a new business idea that you feel really excited about. At first, you have a lot of energy for your new idea. You spend long days working on it, feverishly moving it from concept to strategy. There comes a point where the idea turns into something physical- and it feels like everything is just going to keep moving forward, better and better.
Except until it doesn’t!
And that’s where a loss of motivation can come in. I have a client who has been working for months to launch her new ecommerce site. The idea is a good one, and she’s been working steadily on all the moving parts and bits- most notably in getting the ecommerce site built and ready to accept customers. She’s working with limited technology knowledge and a limited budget, and has invested a notable amount of money in building this ecommerce platform out from scratch. We just began working together recently, but I’m impressed with her perseverance and dedication to her idea, even when her developers keep dropping the ball, and the bugs they fix sometimes leave two more in their wake.
Yet, she is getting tired. She’s starting to doubt her idea. She’s starting to doubt whether she can bring this project to successful launch. She’s feeling less and less motivated, and the challenges seem more and more challenging.
So while she’s building an ecommerce site, I think demotivation can happen for any of us when there is a long time between idea and results. Maybe, as humans, we’re built this way- prone to look for fast success and needing that fast success to fuel our continued efforts. If we think about weight loss, it’s the same idea. The fast loss of pounds keeps us motivated to keep going. It’s much more difficult to sustain when apparently nothing is happening, or when we feel like we’re taking two steps forward and three steps back. It’s all too easy to feel frustrated and as if there is no point.
Yet, not surprisingly, when you most need faith, you might find its in short supply.
So how do you stay motivated when your idea to launch is taking longer than you ever imagined? (Or, just in general, how do you deal well with delays and processes that unfold on a different timeline than you imagined?)
Here are strategies that have worked well for me:
Distract myself by focusing on something else.
Ok, so this might seem a bit counter-intuitive- normally, your undivided attention is a very good thing. But not in this case. If you are in the midst of something you can’t accelerate, and can’t control; it’s better to try and go with it- by turning your attention and focus elsewhere for the time being. I’ve been practicing this more regularly, mostly by heading to my jewelry making studio and creating pieces while I wait for things to move. In the past, I would have sat glued to the computer, basically just fretting at the delay or lack of progress. Now, once I realize there isn’t much to do but wait, I try to make the waiting as pleasant as possible. If you have creative pursuits, you can spend time in those, or you can also distract yourself by going for a walk, reading a book, or taking a nap. It’s almost impossible to keep fretting and worrying at the same level when you engage yourself in other things.
Invest in lateral progress.
Lateral progress is a term I use to describe the idea of “moving sideways” towards a goal. When you can’t make direct progress on a goal, you can still make progress on the items around the goal or related to the goal. There are two kinds of lateral progress- one is tied to the goal, and the other is progress in a different area. Let’s talk about the type tied to the goal first. Another way you might have heard of this concept is the idea of “preparing as if the goal has already occurred”- what would you need to do next?
For instance, I’m considering buying a kiln for my jewelry workshop. There are some challenges to this, as the working space I have is not really set up to support a kiln, and I’m still exploring what my options and alternatives are. Yet, I’m feeling some urgency to make some decisions, because I have a whole lot of projects rolling around in my head, most of which seem to require use of a kiln. So while I try to figure out how to achieve my main goal- of getting a kiln- I’ve been making lateral progress, by clearing out space for the new kiln, getting some new counters and storage put in, and designing my work space after the kiln goes in. This way, I’m making progress on the goal, laterally, while I wait to attain the main goal, of kiln purchase.
The other way to make lateral progress is to make progress in some other, unrelated area of your life. So if you’re waiting for goals or outcomes in your business, you can use the unexpected delay or downtime to improve your life in some other way. Do you have another important life goal you want to reach? You can make progress on that in the meantime. If you have a book you want to write, you could, for instance, start outlining chapters for that while you wait. In a sense, the idea of loss of motivation is because you need to find a new perspective or a new source of motivation- and progressing on lateral goals is one good way to do that.
Do all you can where you are.
If we’re doing the best we can, where we are, that’s really all we can expect of ourselves. If you can think of something else you could do or should do to move your goal forward, then do that. As long as you continue to feel you’re doing the best you can- and all you can, there isn’t more you can expect of yourself, or others can expect of you.
If you’re experiencing any loss of motivation related to failure to launch as planned, remember these strategies as a way to adjust your perspective and help you find ways to enjoy this “in the meantime.”
Cultivating patience and a respect for right timing are two key traits of successful entrepreneurs.