As the new year is well underway, are you on top of your game? Or are you still struggling to get back into your post-holiday groove? Many things can get us off track or distract us from achieving our goals. How do we overcome them?

An Olympic story

top of your game

An Olympic skeleton start

In 2014, at the Sochi Winter Olympics, skeleton athlete John Daly was at the top of his game. In his second Olympics, he was closing in on a medal. As he started his last run of the event, a freak error in his timing caused his sled to slip out of the starting groove and send him skidding diagonally down the track, crushing his dreams of greatness. He could only watch in despair as his good friend and teammate won the medal for which he had hoped. (Watch the heartbreaking video here…)

Feeling as though his life’s aspirations had been ripped from his grasp, John turned his back on the sport he loved. He gave away or sold all his equipment, moved nine hours away to Washington, D.C., and got a “real job” as a pediatric medical device salesman. He soon relaxed into his new life: no long training hours, less rigid diet, and time for dating. On one of those dates, in the fall of 2016, a young woman asked what he was passionate about in life. After a moment’s thought, John blurted an honest answer: “Nothing.”

Self-motivation

John’s story is an extreme – and literal – example of getting off track. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon, though usually in less dramatic ways. So how do we get going again? A crucial factor is self-motivation: the initiative to undertake or continue a task or activity without another person’s prodding or supervision.

If you work for a company, you’ve been given specific parameters of what is expected. You have a framework of what you need to get done daily, weekly, and monthly. But it’s different if you’re an entrepreneur or in direct sales. If you’re an insurance agent or realtor, you work for a company but you’re basically independent. How do you maintain energy, enthusiasm, and motivation without that external framework? How do you stay on top of your game without someone standing over you? All of my independent clients struggle with this.

Reasons you can slip from the top of your game

The first reason is most often seen in direct sales or entrepreneurship. You expect a continuing relationship with your client base without having much personal interaction with them. Email blasts don’t count! People are too busy to read those. How do you pick up the phone and continue that relationship? It’s easy for your business to get into management mode, where you stop doing the things that made you successful. To stay at the top of your game, you need to keep doing the things that got you into the game in the first place.

Secondly, you get distracted because of personal issues in your life. A sick child, a divorce, or a personal crisis can get you off track for a while. To stay at the top of your game, you must maintain consistent performance, which will bring you long-term success. A friend and I were discussing why some people are successful in direct sales while others are not. We agreed that there are certain things you must do consistently every month, like a heartbeat. For me, it’s twenty face to face presentations per month. Not three this month and fifty the next. How do I keep myself that consistent? You must assess your “why.”

Basic motivators for why you do things

1. Intrinsic 

You do it because you love it. This is who you are. For John Daly, it was flying headfirst down an icy track at 80 miles per hour. For many of us, it could be that hobby or passion that we wish we could do all the time. Intrinsic motivation means you’d do it even if you didn’t get paid.

2. Extrinsic

You do these things because you have to to survive. Even if your heart isn’t in your job, you need to keep a roof over your head and feed your family. Don’t get me wrong: many extrinsic motivators are necessary. Life isn’t always about what you want to do, but rather what you’ve got to do. Self-discipline means motivating yourself to do those things you’d rather avoid, but that must be done. Nobody has an absolute love affair with every little minute of their life. For me, an example would be cooking. I don’t hate it, but I cook because we have to eat. On the other hand, my daughter loves cooking: for her, it’s an art form, and she’s intrinsically motivated to cook. I just do it to survive.

3. Obligations

These can grate on your nerves and cause a lot of stress. You may even hate them. Cleaning, filing, taxes, writing holiday cards… we could all make lists of things we’d be thrilled to never do again. Check your own list to see how many of these tasks can be delegated.

When you look at your business and all the things you must accomplish to stay on top of your game, you’ll see a mix of these three types of things. It’s easy to do the intrinsic things, but although the other two are harder, we still need to do them for success.

Six steps to self-motivation

1. Set goals that include a minimum standard.

For example, let’s say you set a goal of getting in shape, and you want to be at the gym five times a week. However, you live in the real world, so set a minimum of three times a week. Never go below that minimum. Problems arise when people set goals with no minimum. Make sure the standard is manageable with all your other standards for career, family, relationships, etc. Never make an excuse for going below the minimum. You can make excuses, or you can make money, but you can’t do both. When you set business goals, like so many phone calls, or the number of products sold per month, never let yourself drop below the minimum.

2. Assess your skill set and your knowledge.

Do you have the skills and knowledge to accomplish these standards? If not, spend time developing them, even though it may not fit into your schedule, or you have to cut out something else. Make sure you’re equipped to accomplish your goals. Find a coach, ideally someone who has reached the level of success that you want to attain. A good coach can accelerate your progress by five years. They are the voice of experience, and they’re not emotionally attached to all the activities you’re doing, so they can be objective and see more clearly the direction that you should take. Ask what they see as your strengths and your areas to improve. If you need help assessing yourself, try this: email your friends and ask them “What three words would you use to describe me?” You’ll be surprised at how much you’re admired. We tend to be very critical of ourselves, especially when we’re going for a goal, but that is a mistake.

3. Acquire the knowledge.

Earn the certification required, read the books, view the webinars, go to the training. Do whatever it takes to reach the top of your game.

4. Be around enthusiastic people.

Spend time with people who are successful at what you want to do. Their enthusiasm will pull you along when you’re not feeling very positive. Avoid toxic people at all costs. Read biographies and stories of people who overcame. Andy Andrews’ book Storms of Perfection contains letters from some of the world’s most successful people, in which they describe how they attained their success. This is way more valuable than watching the news.

5. Focus on your goal, not the struggle.

It helps you maintain a more positive, optimistic point of view. Some days you just don’t feel positive. When you realize that you are stressed or tired or too busy, not feeling settled and centered, find ways to intentionally refocus. Keep your eyes on the prize.

6. Just do it!

Don’t put off the hard things. If you’d like help in starting something that you’ve been putting off, try one of the free phone apps from Pomodoro. It uses alarms to break up your work time into manageable chunks and also lets you assign time to different goals. Once you get going, the juices get flowing! It’s a great app for when you’re making those phone calls or doing something else that’s hard for you to get excited about. Once you get into your routine, it’s a lot easier to keep it rolling. Learn how to throw your fastball

Back to our Olympic story…

John Daly realized that he was still passionate about his sport. In November of 2016, nearly three years after his last race, he announced his return to competition. With just over a year before the Winter Olympics, John leaped back into an intense training regimen. Almost unbelievably, he has kept his full-time job and still trains five hours per day, flying to competitions on weekends. In his words, “It was very tough to turn that competitive edge back on, to bring back all those emotions and put yourself out there for potentially a victory or defeat all over again. That was the hardest part.”

John had to exercise tremendous self-motivation in order to get back on track for international competition, but he did it! Now 32 years old, he has made the team and will represent the United States in PyeongChang this month. As the Olympics begin, watch for John, and let his comeback inspire you to stay on top of your game!

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