Building a business is rarely about creating an overnight success. And, even when it is, we still then need to sustain that success day in and day out.

So, it’s perhaps not surprising that our enthusiasm to work on our business can falter from time to time, and we can find ourselves wondering how we can stay motivated..

What is motivation and where does it come from?

We often talk about motivation as if it was some elusive quality that may or may not appear. Lots of books have been written about how to motivate students, and it usually revolves around making sure they’re having fun.

There’s something in that, because, biologically speaking, motivation is about moving towards pleasure and away from pain.

As freelancers and small business owners, we can use the principle of moving towards pleasure by ensuring as far as possible that our business is centred around something we genuinely enjoy.

As Mark Twain apparently said, ‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.;

Reality bites

There is some truth to this quote, but the reality is that there are always going to be things we need to do that we don’t enjoy, or even actively dislike.

This might be because they’re boring, or don’t play to our strengths. But very often the ‘pain’ that we’re trying to move away from is a form of fear.

Running your own business necessarily involves a lot of stepping out of (or at least stretching) our ‘comfort zones’. Comfort zones aren’t necessarily that comfortable, but we are hard wired to seek the path of least resistance, and avoid risk where possible.

So a lot of the time when we find it hard to stay motivated, we’re actually experiencing a desire not to take any risks.

Once we recognise this, it starts to make sense how we can simultaneously really want to develop a new digital course and also somehow never actually get around to doing it. We are both highly motivated to do it (using one part of our brain) AND highly motivated to maintain the status quo (using another part).

These things are often in complete opposition, which means that if we wait for that flush of motivation to work on our project we may wait a long time, or find it hard to sustain the motivation once we do start.

Don’t wait until you feel motivated

So, the answer isn’t to wait until we feel motivated, but to set up systems which help us to do the task regardless of motivation. Essentially, planning what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it.

Then when it comes to that time, we can set ourselves up better for success by recognising that we are quite possibly going to try and sabotage or undermine our efforts. That’s just our brain trying to protect us from the risk of failure. .

We can work out how this tends to happen and take steps to overcome this drive back towards the status quo by such things as:

  • using the pomodoro technique
  • ‘tricking’ our brain by promising ourselves we’ll just do 10 minutes and see how it goes- usually then finding that we get into the flow and get over the backwards drive.
  • shutting down deliberately diistracting email and social media notifications

So, don’t wait for motivation. Instead plan what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it (my Productivity Planner can help with this) and then implement strategies to overcome that pull back into the ‘safe’ status quo.

the Confident ELT Freelancer- Earn Learn Thrive


If you’re an ELT freelancer/business owner you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the business advice out there…

Should you start a podcast or a YouTube channel, a mailing list, a membership? Is it a good idea to keep things as simple as possible, or should you be looking to diversify? What does scaling even mean, anyway?!

Would you like some clear step by step advice tailored to your stage of business? 

Look no further. Click the image to answer six simple questions and I’ll send you a detailed PDF game plan for your next steps.