Being a parent in the modern day startup world can be stressful at times. Even if you are not working for a startup, the odds are high that you are a hard worker, with tough daily mental tasks in front of you. Add your family responsibilities to that, and you can soon find yourself in a desperate state. It’s hard to keep yourself motivated at all times. At least being a parent incites a big reason for that inner motivation, but even the strongest ones need a little nudge here and there.
Routine & Habits
I place a lot of value in creating and maintaining routines. Great routines make themselves into habits, and habits are hard to kill when established. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who wanted to give up smoking after 15 years. I gave up that unhealthy and smelly habit at least 5 times before I finally succeeded. The small steps we take add up really slowly over time, but they matter. I add stuff to my morning routine every couple of months and remove stuff that is not working. But unless you try something for at least a month, you won’t see any results.
Our habits are programmed into our brains and drive 99% of our daily life. When was the last time you thought about how your legs move when you're riding a bicycle? Habits are also what differentiates the swimming achievements of Michael Phelps and Leon Tucker. Who is Leon Tucker? Not a famous swimmer, that's who! Michael Phelps has won everything there is to be won in swimming, and he still trains as hard as always, there is no slacking allowed if you want top results, it’s easy to keep it going once it becomes a habit, getting them to stick is the hard thing. Ask Leon.
The thing that makes you get out of the bed, stops you from watching useless stuff on TV, and moves your posterior in a direction that will make a real difference in your life is a powerful drug. When you tame your internal motivation to work for you, and realise that things are hard only at the beginning, then you will start seeing improvements in your daily life. Trade in reading some useless news/social networks in the morning for a good inspirational or educative book. 10 Minutes of reading a day is enough. You don’t have to read for 2+ hours a day as I do. You can get to it, if you wish, but start with small steps and continue to improve.
People are social creatures. We need a little encouragement and praise from time to time. Just to be sure we are going in the right direction. Give honest praise to people that deserve it, because they too are struggling with the same stuff you are struggling with. Sometimes everything it takes for them is a little nudge from the outside.
Great job you did back there, buddy. That was one heck of an effort. I can’t believe someone could even do that, and it seems like it’s second nature to you. I just wish that I had that kind of dedication!
A simple and honest praise goes a long way. People are sensitive creatures, your subordinates even more. The worst thing you can do is to criticise them. And I personally know a few people, who by no means are bad people or businessmen, but they happen to be bad motivators. Sometimes they even wander into the perfect de-motivator region. This whole approach starts with ourselves, if we don’t appreciate our own work, it’s pretty hard to appreciate the work of others. Understanding and addressing the main reasons behind self-motivation and how we fail to motivate ourselves is the best way to proactively counter them, and achieve a happier and more productive work environment.
How we fail to motivate ourselves
When we start doing something new, especially if it’s something completely unknown to us or something deemed mysterious, it’s pretty easy to discourage ourselves from doing it at all. If you think something is too hard for you, using a defeatist view from the start, you probably won’t succeed in accomplishing the task. Maybe you don’t feel you are good at the subject, which is completely OK. But thinking that you can’t improve is poisonous. You might know the subject, be experienced in it, but you just don't believe in what you do and expect to fail. And you will most probably be right, because your pessimistic thoughts will influence your work process. Even if your project does get finished, chances are high it will be in a worse state than should you've believed in it.
But knowing nothing means we can learn everything
Maybe you are the sole provider in your family, and don’t want to take risks because you feel some security in the things you already know and don’t want to step too much out of it. That is OK, if done moderately. If you are unhappy doing your job, your family will suffer too. Taking some risks makes work less dull and more fun, which transpires to your private life, making you, and everyone around you happier.
But I’m not good in math...
Guess what, I’m also not good in math, wasn’t able to do sports well, was weighing way too much, basically being inactive throughout my 20’s. The only thing that changed is the determination to persist, to take it as far as humanly possible. What changed was my motivation. Getting up from the sofa, away from the TV and doing something for myself and for my family. In the process I got much healthier, started consulting and working remotely. It completely changed my life, surely even prolonged it a bit. I’m not talented enough to draw well, or play music, or even sing. But guess what: With enough repetition I can get good at those things too. It’s harder if you are not naturally talented, sure, but we all forget that we were once children, and knew nothing whatsoever.
You can learn a thing or two from children
But knowing nothing means we can learn everything. The main thing that I’ve learned from my son in the last few years is that you should never, ever give up. You might fall down and hit your leg when falling. Failing might hurt. But then you brush yourself off, wipe your tears, get up and get back to the thing you were doing. It’s that simple. Just keep on doing what you are doing, and trust that your parents (or partner, friends, coworkers...) will warn you in time if something catastrophic is going to happen if you keep on hitting your head on the wrong wall for too long.
Communicate those warnings carefully
First off, there really is no such thing as “constructive critic”. Especially if you are criticising it in public. Words can have the same effect as beating someone, so be careful with them. Instead of criticising someone for something they did wrong, try to encourage them to do it better next time. For example, “This is obviously the wrong approach” can be easily turned into “Have you considered X as an approach, I’ve made some bad decisions in the past when choosing the specific approach that you chose, and I want to you to try and avoid the issues that I had with it.” Remember to never, ever say that someone is not good or smart enough to do something. While it's the sad truth that different people have different talents and potential, it can take away the motivation to get the maximum out of those talents. And that would be a shame because motivation can get you pretty far.
I can vouch for it.