“There will be obstacles, there will be doubters, there will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.” —Michael Phelps

Hang in There!

By now, pretty much everyone is familiar with the motivational kitten poster from the 70’s. The original black and white picture, taken by photographer Victor Baldwin in 1971, shows his Siamese kitten Sassy hanging from a bamboo pole. In creating the poster, Baldwin added the phrase “Hang in there, baby”, and a cultural phenomenon was born.

Over the decades, various incarnations show different adorable kittens hanging from the branches of trees, ropes, or bars along with the popular catchphrase (I had one hanging in my bedroom when I was a kid, along with thousands of other kids who received it as a free gift with their Scholastic book order).

It’s a simple enough message, isn’t it? Hang in there. When the going gets tough, all you need is a little patience, perseverance, and time, and everything will be okay.

But if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s not always so easy to stay motivated and focused. Owning a business can sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You may have employees you need to take care of or you may be doing everything on your own. You have inventory to manage. Deadlines. Expenses. Taxes. Family. It can seem overwhelming at times, like you’re just barely keeping your head above water. Maybe you wonder why you ever started your own business or if it’s really worth it. Trying to figure out how to stay motivated enough to keep moving forward may feel impossible.

You’re not alone. According to the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, there were over 30 million small businesses operating in the United States in 2018. More than 22 million of those businesses are owned and run by a single individual. It’s worth asking the question: what keeps these business owners motivated?

Our own CEO Ryan Stephens said, “I know people are depending on us, including our employees. Being able to provide jobs for people is what keeps me going.”

So whether you employ a full staff or go it alone, here are some tips to keep you motivated and looking forward to the future of your business.

Support System

Sometimes the best way to stay motivated is to surround yourself with other people who are motivated. We can’t always conjure up motivation or new ideas on our own no matter how much we may want to believe it’s possible.

This may be especially challenging if you’re a one-person operation and are used to making all of your own business decisions. Even if you don’t have any employees or business partners, don’t be afraid to ask the people closest to you for their support and opinions.

It’s important to recognize who has the potential to provide you with the kind of support you need and who could potentially be a toxic influence. Seek advice from those who will give brutally honest but not demoralizing feedback. Find people who are already successful at what they do, who are level-headed, rational, and tenacious. Basically, find others within your social circle who possess the good qualities that you already have or the qualities you aspire to have. Sometimes seeing how others succeed in life and business can motivate you to do the same in your own unique way.

Challenge yourself

Do you find yourself feeling unmotivated because you’re bored? Sure, you may have found a great business strategy that’s working for you, but is it working a little too well?

One of the pitfalls of a successful business is that it can become so routine it may make you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Of course, financial security is a huge benefit of being successful, but oftentimes we become so entrenched in our comfort zone that we forget what it feels like to be truly challenged.

You don’t have to approach this on a massive scale. We’re not suggesting that to challenge yourself you need to completely overhaul your entire business or relocate across country.

First, consider why you’re bored. Are you tired of selling the same products over and over? Are you just bored with the day-to-day operations side of the business? Give yourself some time to think it through.

Once you know the why, consider the how. How can you challenge yourself? Does it make sense to launch a new product or service? Should you hire someone who can not only help run your business but who will bring an entirely different point of view to it? After all, just as you can’t learn anything from trying to be perfect, you also can’t learn anything from someone who always agrees with you.

You know yourself and your business better than anyone. The first crucial step towards challenging yourself is being honest about why you need to do it and how. It’s never easy to step outside of our comfort zones, but there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to move forward. Don’t be afraid to take some chances and really tap into your creativity. Use all of the resources available to you, personally and financially, and face whatever new challenges you set for yourself head on.

Capitalize on Your Mistakes

Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Whether you’re just starting a new business or you’ve been an entrepreneur for decades, one thing is certain: mistakes will be made. Most mistakes can be demoralizing and create setbacks but aren’t catastrophic. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.

In his book “Mentor Me”, author and entrepreneur Ken Poirot says, “Wisdom comes from making mistakes, having the courage to face them, and make adjustments moving forward based upon the knowledge acquired through those experiences.”

It isn’t just about admitting you’ve made a bad business decision. It’s about what you take from it and how you adjust the way you do business. Sometimes mistakes can be just what we need to spark new ideas and motivate us to move in a different, better direction.

Take Care of Yourself (No, Really)

This may seem like common sense. Yet so many of us are so focused on our work and families that we neglect to take care of ourselves the way we should. If you’re a business owner AND a caretaker of children or other family members, it’s even more important to take care of yourself. For some of us, it feels selfish to actually pamper ourselves physically and mentally. But think of it this way: if you don’t take care of yourself, how are you any good to anyone else? Your own health can suffer, not to mention the health of your business and the relationships that are most important to you.

We all know what helps us decompress and destress. Now make the time to do it! Go to the gym, take a run, get a massage, go to a movie, sleep in…..whatever it is that helps you center yourself and recharge, make it a priority. When all is said and done, doing what makes you happy will only benefit you, your business, and your family.

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

Unless you’re big into journaling, you probably didn’t write down everything you were feeling and thinking when you decided to start your business. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to tap into those memories.

Start off by simply sitting down and trying to conjure up that time in your mind. Was there a specific event or chain of events that led to your decision? Was it something you always wanted to do and just had to wait for the right opportunity? How did it change your life?

If you’re an avid social media user, did you document your journey along the way and share it with others? If so, take the time to look back on those posts and photos and remember what motivated you at that time in your life.

Talk to those closest to you and ask them to share what they remember. Think about your entire journey from beginning to present. Reminisce about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Go over all of it, the successes, the mistakes, the struggles, the sacrifices, and the milestones. Looking back on starting a business is a lot like looking back on a relationship that’s lost its spark. Getting back to basics can be a great way to jumpstart your passion and motivation again.

Have Some Fun

At the end of the day, remember to laugh and have some fun. Yes, owning and operating your own business is serious, well, business. That doesn’t mean you can’t have enjoy yourself a little along the way. After all, no one at the end of their lives, to my knowledge, has ever said, “I regret laughing so much.”

No matter how successful you are, there will always be ups and downs, successes and failures. That goes for life in general, not just business. Learn to roll with the punches, keep your head above water as much as possible, surround yourself with the people and things that you love. And don’t forget to laugh.

Laugh a lot.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

-Steve Jobs