Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of having bosses or managers working to keep their teams motivated enough to stay productive and to produce quality work. Because of this, learning the skills required for self-motivation and willpower becomes solely  your own responsibility – it’s all up to you!

In order to become a successful entrepreneur, you need to become self-reliant when it comes to building the motivation and willpower needed to create the habits that you need to succeed. Fortunately, every one of us holds the key to self-motivation within us, this article will show you how to use it to your advantage.

Overcoming Resistance And Getting Motivated

“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’” – Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)

To go from saying “I wish” to “I will”, you need the right amounts of dopamine in the right places in your brain.  A study conducted at the Vanderbilt University differentiated between demotivated “slackers” who didn’t achieve much (who had higher levels of dopamine in the anterior insula, the area of the brain associated with emotion and risk perception) and highly motivated achievers or “go-getters” (who had higher level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex and striatum, the areas of the brain associated with motivation and reward).

The results of the study mean that we can train our brains to feed off of the different bursts of dopamine that we get from rewarding experiences, and channel it in a way that works to our benefit.

One of the ways that we can do this is by overcoming the three main sources of resistance that all have to do with how we perceive:

  1. Autonomy: No one enjoys performing tasks that they feel obliged to do. When we think of ourselves as choosing to do tasks rather than being forced to do them, we are likely to feel more motivated.
  2. Value: Doing things that we just don’t see the point of can be frustrating. Choosing your activities wisely and understanding their importance to your main goals can actually motivate you to perform them with more enthusiasm and effort.
  3. Competence: Have you ever looked forward to doing something you felt you weren’t good at? Chances are, you haven’t. Practice really does make perfect – the more adept you feel yourself to be at a task, the more likely you are to be motivated enough to do it.

Willpower  – It’s All In Your Head!

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracey, Getting Rich Your Own Way (2004)

Getting motivated is one thing, but how do you get the willpower to actually carry your plans out? In her book The Willpower Instinct (2011), Kelly McGonigal, refers to willpower as a “reaction to an internal conflict”. For example, you want to go out for dinner with your friends, but you know you really should be doing something for work – how much willpower you have determines which of the two actions you’ll eventually decide to take. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have deadlines set by your manager and you need to be able to have enough self-control to make the right decisions for yourself.

Think of willpower as a muscle with finite amounts of energy. In order for your willpower to be accessible whenever you need it, you need to train it.

Learning To Flex Your Willpower Muscle – “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” – Victor Hugo

In order to use your “strength” efficiently, try some of the tips below to keep your willpower from depleting.

1. Identify your capacity for pressure

Pushing yourself too far will only result in you feeling too exhausted to practice any of your productive habits. When you’re too overwhelmed or stressed, your prefrontal cortex is more likely to lose the battle for energy; this will leave you at the mercy of your instincts which usually lead to decisions being based on short term outcomes. So as soon as you feel your willpower depleting, do something to build it back up!

2. Control your mindset

Self-affirmation can help you gain the control that you need to maintain good habits. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psycholog shows that the way you talk to yourself has a huge impact on what you’re able to achieve. Saying “I can’t sleep in today” for example, indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something unpleasant. Saying “I won’t sleep in today” on the other hand, serves as a reminder of your own autonomy and your personal choice to engage in positive habits.

3.  Take care of your body

Every time you resist the temptation to go back to your old habits, your body draws on your supply of glucose. The less glucose you have, the less energy you have to maintain your willpower. Making strategic dietary choices and getting the right amounts of the right nutrients into your system can do a lot for your energy reserves. Getting enough sleep is just as important. Renowned sleep researcher Daniel Kripke has found that people who get around 6.5 – 7.5 hours of sleep a night tend to have the highest level of productivity and willpower.

4.  Identify your rewards

What are your reasons for wanting to become a successful entrepreneur? What are your main goals? According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do And How To Change It (2012), having a clear set of goals and identifying your rewards will keep you motivated enough to do what needs to be done, instead of focusing on the difficulty of the tasks/activities at hand.

5.  Anticipate obstacles

Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt (author of Welcome To Your Child’s Brain: How The Mind Grows From Conception To College, 2011) claims that if you don’t have a Plan B ready, it’ll make it that much harder for you to regain your willpower after a setback. Being prepared for the challenges that you may face as an entrepreneur won’t make the obstacles any less difficult to deal with, but will definitely have an impact on how fast you recover from disappointments without derailing your good habits.

Motivation Is Your Secret Weapon – Learn How To Use It!

Successful entrepreneurs are able to beat the odds and to come out of seemingly impossible circumstances with creative, new ideas and innovative business plans – to do this, they continuously work on creating sustainable levels of willpower and motivation; it hardly ever comes naturally to anyone! The saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” exists for a reason – harness your willpower and make it work for you!

To your Success


Kirstin ODonovan

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