How to Keep Your Motivation
in Challenging Times
By Peter Shankman
notice how some things are really easy to find? “Now where did I put
my car keys? Ah yes, in my coat pocket.” “Honey, where’s the dog?”
“He’s in the backyard!” Other
things, as well! “Officer, can you tell me how to get to the
freeway?” “Sure, pal. Take this road one mile, make a left, you’ll
see the sign.” Easy,
right? Some things, though, really aren’t so easy. In fact, in my
opinion, the hardest thing to find once you lose it, is your
right? You can’t go up to someone on the street, or a fellow
employee, and ask if they’ve seen your motivation. “Bob,
I’ve been slacking of late. Any idea where my motivation went?” “Why
yes, Peter! You left it in the conference room last Thursday. We put
it in the filing cabinet for safe-keeping.”
was that easy, huh? Truth is, when times are challenging, motivation
is, as well. It’s even worse if you have a job, and are getting by –
there’s no proverbial “wolf at your door” to kick-start you into a
new idea phase. So you go, day in, day out. And you become
complacent, which leads to stagnation, which leads to eventual
failure. Bet you never thought you could blame your lack of ideas on
the NASDAQ, did you?
said, read on for a few ideas on ways to avoid stagnation. Ways to
avoid falling into the world of mediocrity – ways to jump start your
imagination, your creative idea process, and your brain back into
high gear. They don’t cost a lot of money, don’t involve a swami or
a really big mountain, and can usually be done in an afternoon, if
not an hour or so.
up, stand up; (then jump around): Sitting in front of your
computer and staring at the screen is not the way to get new ideas.
Put your Instant Messenger on “Away mode,” shut off the monitor, and
walk away from the computer. Then, put on a t-shirt, a pair of
shorts, and some running shoes. Go for a walk or a run.
been proven that upping endorphins opens up the blood vessels, which
leads to clearer thinking. Bad day? Go for a run. Need a change but
don’t know what it needs to be? Stairmaster. Can’t figure out how to
get a client to understand that you’re right and they’re wrong?
Bench press. The key is to get your heart pumping, get moving,
motivated, and head back into the office with a fresh start from
I-D-E-A-S: I keep a bunch of board games in the office.
Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, you name it. Brain-freeze? Play a
game. Grab a co-worker who doesn’t look busy, and make the
challenge. Once it’s on, it’s on. Play a timed game – one hour –
whoever loses buys lunch for the rest of the week.
Weight a second: I keep a few weights and a Yoga mat by the
door. Can’t get out of the office? Drop for 20, 30, 50 pushups. Or
sit ups. Stretch. Do something physical. 20 seconds or more, and
you’ll note a full chemical change in your brain. It really works. I
also drop for pushups every hour on International flights. Forget
about “airplane germs.” Pushups kill them.
Overcome a fear, and stagnation goes out the window: What
scares you? Really scares you? What wouldn’t you do? Perhaps
it’s skydiving. Perhaps it’s bungee jumping, or even going to a
nightclub wearing something that will land you in purgatory for
it is, do it. One idea is to keep a “fear tip jar” in the office,
and every day, dump excess change, a single or two, whatever you
have around, into that jar. When it gets to the point where you feel
like you’re dragging or starting to stagnate, grab all that money,
and do something scary. Like skydiving, SCUBA diving, rock climbing,
or Bungee jumping. The incredible rush you get from that, which
makes your mother wince, is sometimes exactly what you need to pull
your creativity back from the brink of doom.
to a child, think like a child. Did it ever occur to you that a
six-year-old doesn’t worry about the stock market? Or whether or not
the Fed is going to raise interest rates, or whether another 20,000
layoffs are coming? Ever try to figure out why?
live in the moment. Children don’t understand the worry of
anticipation, or the trauma of the “potential.” Children know what’s
going on because they’re seeing it happen in front of their eyes and
nowhere else. Talk to a child, think like a child.
do it: Find a child. A neighbor’s kid, a brother’s kid, they’re all
around you. Find one. Explain to the parents that you’re more than
willing to watch the kid for a few hours, giving the parent a
well-deserved chance to relax and enjoy pampering themselves at the
the cell phone. Turn off the pager. Turn off the computer. Get down
on the floor with your little charge and play with them. Do what
they want, whether it’s having imaginary tea or taking the Matchbox
cars through the imaginary car wash. Ask questions! Ask them why the
purple car is going before the red car – the answers will amaze you!
Remember them – they work in real life, too.
are simple solutions – but they all have a common theme – the theme
of doing something different. The fact is, everyone gets “rutted”
into a formal daily grind. It takes it’s toll, whether you know it
or not. Add in a bad economy or a mass layoff, and you’re looking
doom and depression in the face. The only way to beat it is to do
something out of the ordinary. Something unexpected. Something that
wakes you up with a violent shake and says “Yo! Time to get off your
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