By Bev James, CEO of The Academy Group

Do you find yourself setting out to do one task and ending up completing something else? Do you sometimes have so many ideas on the go, you are unsure which to do first? Or perhaps the passion for the task has faded and you are spending time dreaming up new plans, but are unsure which to run with. We all have times in our business lives when we lose focus or direction. This usually happens because we have often lost sight of why we are doing the task — or what the motivation was for beginning it in the first place.

Motivation comes from a positive place that drives us forwards. It is an active rather than a reactive response. Understanding why you are motivated will help you to identify your true values and make sure they are aligned with your goals.

I spend a lot of my time as a business coach working with Olympic and world class athletes who decide they would like to set up their own business, once they have retired from their sport. It is easy to see why they have achieved incredible success in their professional lives. Not only do they understand how to compete in their chosen sport they are also very clear as to why they compete. For years, their professional and personal focus has been fixed firmly on their goal. Like successful business people, their personal motivation is constantly aligned with the behaviours that will help them to achieve their success. Everything else is secondary. There is no room for an ‘off day’ or excuses; those will only take them further away from their goal.

Personal development expert Anthony Robbins has a memorable phrase: he talks about people ‘should-ing’ all over themselves. When people using the ‘should’ word frequently, it is a warning sign that may denote several things:

- That they have low personal motivation — your heart is not really in it.

- That they have split priorities — it’s time to refocus and decide what is most important.

- That they are doing things for others — rather a personal goal or a love of the task.

The word ‘should’ leaves business owners stuck in the past and focused on disappointments. The word ‘will’ looks to the future. Saying ‘I will...’ do something, suggests a positive mindset; a drive and willingness to propel things forwards.

Running a successful business depends upon an ability to think on your feet, take responsibility, be reliable and developing resilience. Understanding your motivation means you will make appropriate decisions and find it easier to stick to them. ‘Will-ing’ rather than ‘should-ing’ is the only way forward.

Athletes and successful business people consistently display determination and self-discipline. They ‘will’ themselves forward and have the ability to perform under pressure; they are competitive, have self-belief, and the ability to bounce back after setbacks.

Eight ways to 'will' yourself into focused motivation

Do it! — Ask yourself how much you really want to achieve your goal. Money may be a primary need in life, but it is rarely the greatest motivator. Really drill down and ask yourself what is stopping you moving forwards. Do you really want to achieve your goal? Know why you do what you do, and what you most enjoy about it. It’s not enough to know your job; you need to love it.

Do it! — Plan ahead: What is your current goal for your business? What are you trying to achieve, and by when? Pour your belief into the practical structure of a plan and include a strategy and a time frame for achieving your goals.

Do it! — Develop self-belief. Belief is what keeps you going when you are knocked back or keeps you going when you are tired. If you have a habit of putting yourself down or thinking pessimistic thoughts, it’s time to quit the negativity and start focusing on the positive about yourself.

Do it! — Understand your expertise. Identifying your core strengths and having self-knowledge will help you to present what you have to offer to others, and be clear about why they need your skills.

Do it! — ‘Get real’ about your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself: What new behaviours do you need to ‘DO’ each and every day that will reinforce your motivation and take you closer to achieving it? What behaviours do you need to ‘DITCH’ that are undermining your success and killing your passion?

Do it! — Seek the company of others who want to succeed. Not everyone has a ‘can-do’ attitude and some people are easily discouraged. Seek the company of those who will understand and support what you do. The rest will catch up with you eventually.

Ditch it! — Don’t expect it to be easy. If you keep your eye on the big picture and the end goal, you will be better able to strengthen your resolve when the going gets tough.

Ditch it! — Don’t ‘should’; always ‘will’. Dwelling on could-have-beens or feeling guilty will hold you back. Ditch the ‘shoulds’; ask yourself ‘why’ you will succeed — and get ready to Do It!

When we know what it is we want to achieve and why we want it — it becomes much easier to make sure that what we repeatedly do every day takes us closer to our true aims and delivers successful results.