How To Stay Motivated

motivation[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]E LIVE IN A “I want it now” world. Often, we expect instant and perfect results from the people we lead and ourselves.

Have you ever seen something once or seen an expert demonstrate a new skill and thought, “I can do that.” But when you tried it, it just didn’t feel natural. It took too much effort or concentration. You may have felt inept or uncomfortable. I’ve been there and I hate that feeling.

Let’s say, however, it looks like something that’s really worth learning. We try it again, a few more times. But it still doesn’t feel right. That’s when it’s all too easy to say, “Well that didn’t work!” And then, we never try it again. If this hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to someone you work with.

News flash: It takes time and sustained motivation to gain competence, let alone advancing to expertise and mastery. This is where your mentor can provide you with invaluable support, coaching, accountability, and a realistic perspective on what tangible progress looks like. That’s what will keep you motivated.

When you want to adopt a new practice or learn something new, tell your mentor what it is and what you intend to accomplish. Simply identifying a new practice that can become a positive habit sets you up to succeed. For even more insurance, set a specific and measurable goal. Work out an action plan and report your results as you go. Each result motivates the next step.

Give yourself at least 90 days to reach your goal.

During the first two weeks, check in with your mentor daily, or every other day, to report progress or setbacks when they happen. A quick phone call, email or text will do it. Your mentor will reply with support, encouragement, and be able to respond to your questions or concerns. After that, depending on how you’re doing, weekly or bi-weekly check-ins should be sufficient.

Putting these simple steps into place will help you to be genuinely confident that you will practice your new behavior, despite occasional slips. You’ll know, deep down, that you can change your behavior.

Initially, your mentor’s encouragement and your own delight in the vision of accomplishment will be inspiring. Keep in mind inspiration is short-lived. For most of us, it lasts about a day, at best, for a week or two. Henry Ford once said, “…after that, its 90 percent hard work.” Inspiration may get us started, but it won’t keep us going. We also need motivation.


Don’t you wish we could just go to the store and buy a case of motivation? We can’t buy it, but we can create it. Motivation is, very simply, a series of small behaviors. Reporting your progress to your mentor and tracking it by recording or charting the new behavior between meetings will give you a solid framework to stay accountable and in action. Each step forward becomes the motivation to take the next step. When you can’t see your way to the next step, reach out to your mentor. They will hold you accountable, encourage you, and get you moving again.

Arrange your environment to support, rather than hinder you – limit exposure to high-risk situations, create visual reminders, schedule your thinking and creative time. My favorite strategy is to meet my deadlines a day ahead of when they’re actually due. That way, I’m never screeching to the finish line and I have time to sleep on it and give it one last review, calmly and with a clear head. On certain projects, this strategy gives me the time to run it by my mentor for their input.

Reward Your Successes As You Go

Motivation isn’t something we have, its something we create. Motivations are specific behaviors we build into our day. Finish a project or meet a milestone, treat yourself to a healthy snack, take a short walk. Then call your mentor, share your accomplishment, and debrief what’s working. Allow yourself to fully appreciate that your success was no accident, but rather the result of your hard work, expertise and commitment to excellence.

Now What?

When you’re hot, you’re hot! Once you’ve reaped the reward, step up to the next challenge. There is nothing like getting back on the phone to make the next sales call, set the next appointment, or take on the next project when you’re riding high from a sense of accomplishment and a job well done. Keep your momentum, be inspired and motivated…keep going.

Susan Bender Phelps works with companies, who want to maximize employee engagement, build leaders, increase profits and productivity, in other words, have employees who want to come to work. Susan is a corporate trainer, speaker and author –


Susan Bender Phelps
Susan Bender Phelps
SUSAN Bender Phelps is a corporate trainer, speaker and author. As founder and lead trainer of Odyssey Mentoring & Leadership, she helps clients create a culture of learning and support that allows their people to deliver breakthrough results time after time. Susan has 30+ years of experience working with leaders at all levels of organizations in many industries, including federal, state and local government, colleges, universities, for-profit and not-for-profit. Industries include healthcare, parks and recreation, advertising, accounting, scientists, physicists, architects, consulting engineers, construction, unions and clergy. Susan speaks nationally on mentorship, leadership and communication. She is the author of Aspire Higher, a collection of true success stories of career and business mentoring. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a master’s in Management & Organizational Leadership. She is a certified SCUBA diver and loves to travel the world.

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  1. Thank you Susan for an interesting post. I personally believe that true motivation is a very personal thing and it should come from within us and not necessarily from the props we get / can get from anything or any person external, even though such may be helpful.

    I like what Gorden B. Hinkley once said , “You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.”

    “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude.
    I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
    And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.” –Charles Swindoll

    • Jonathan,
      Thank you for letting me know how much ou like the article. And thank you for the great quotes. i agree that a positive attitude is a key ingredient for success in any endeavor. I also know that keeping a good attitude in the face of adversity is easier said than done. There is no shame in having a committed listener, a mentor or trusted friend to remind us of who we really are and what is most important when the going gets tough. In fact, it’s the smart thing to do.