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Years ago, I was being interviewed for a marketing website for a series that the marketing guy was doing was on networking. The question he asked was this:

“If you have a client and they don’t like networking, what do you tell them to get them motivated?”

I said that essentially I would tell them not to network. I explained to him that to my mind, the notion of motivation as something to get or create is a red herring – either we want to do something or we don’t. If we want to do it, we’re already motivated; if we don’t, why would we?

He seemed a bit befuddled by that answer, but responded that “people need to get motivated to network or they’ll never find new customers or clients”.

“Do they want to find new customers or clients?” I asked.

“Yes, of course.”

“Then the problem isn’t motivation, it’s strategy. When you really want to do something, you get inspired. You get creatively engaged. You try things out. You’re less worried about pushing through to the result because you’re enjoying the process.”

I told him about a goal I’d once had to earn my previous year’s worth of income in the first 30 days of the new year. I did some math and worked out that:

  • I made one coaching proposal for every three prospecting calls
  • I booked one client for every three coaching proposals
  • I needed fifteen clients to match my previous years income

So…

15 clients x 3 proposals for client x 3 prospecting calls per proposal = 270 prospecting calls

270 prospecting calls divided by 30 days = 9 prospecting calls a day

That sounded like a lot to me, but I figured I could “motivate myself”, get through the month, and then I could live the rest of the year “sales free”. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten a few things.

One was that I was already spending three to five hours a day working with my existing clients, so I was essentially committing myself to twelve to fifteen hours a day not counting doing things like writing up proposals, meeting new people, and having a life. The second was the law of diminishing returns – that the reason I limited the number of clients I worked with was that by the fourth of fifth session of the day, I was mentally fried and the quality of my sessions and calls would just get worse and worse.

So in point of fact, while nine high quality prospecting calls where I was at my best and fully present and engaged might consistently lead to one new client, I had no data for how many crap prospecting calls I’d have to do to get a client.

Fortunately, I got overwhelmed to the point where I gave up on the idea by the end of the first week. And as so often happens when I stop trying so hard to make things happen, a new thought occurred to me.

The reason I was pushing myself so hard to earn a year’s income in 30 days was that I hated selling so much that I just wanted to get that part of the business over and done with as quickly as possible. If I didn’t hate it, I wouldn’t need to motivate myself to do it.

Suddenly a new goal emerged:

“To love selling as much as I love working with clients.”

This was instantly motivating to me because I actually wanted it. It wasn’t something I thought I had to do or was “good for me”. I wasn’t in a rush, because I was excited to try things out and learn by doing. And human beings are always more creatively engaged, inspired, and enjoyable to be around when they’re doing something they want to do than when they’re trying to make themselves do something that they don’t.

In this sense, the idea of trying to motivate yourself is a somewhat pointless endeavor. You want what you want whether or not you think you can have it, and you don’t want what you don’t want whether or not you think you should want it. In this sense, motivation is something you uncover, not something you have to create.

If you can find an authentic desire – what you’re already motivated to do, be, and have – you’ll find a way to do, be, or have it. You don’t have to focus on an uninspired means to a worthy end to be successful. You just have to wake up to what you already know and want to do.

This may take a bit of time and exploration. You may get excited about a path only to find that it dead ends after a few days or weeks. But when you’re enjoying the journey, you’ll find yourself in less of a rush to arrive. And when you see that your wellbeing isn’t dependant on what you get or don’t get, it makes no sense to try to manipulate yourself into wanting what you don’t want or doing what you don’t want to do.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!

With all my love,
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