Not long ago, a business owner who reads my column asked me this question:

I was wondering what do you do when your motivation level is lacking, as well as your self esteem? What do you do to regain the motivation needed to move on with your plans and pursue your networking endeavors?

This is a great question, and here’s my answer:

First of all, let me say that I am as certain of what I’m about to say as anything in my life: Motivation comes from within you, not from outside you. No one can motivate you but yourself. I’m speaking long-term motivation. Many years ago, author Frederick Herzberg wrote about motivation in the Harvard Business Review, where he said that others can motivate you but only in the short term. He called that KITA (Kick in the… Anatomy – that’s really what he called it).

On the other hand, long-term motivation comes from within. So, that begs the question: As a business person, how do you motivate yourself when your motivation is low?

First, you should understand that virtually all people have to deal with this at some point throughout their professional lives. I’ve never met anyone who was immune to this (I certainly am not). So, what do I do as an entrepreneur and businessman when I feel down?

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Here are some of the things that have helped me:

1. Minimize contact with negative people. This isn’t always completely possible but do it as much as you can.  At least do this for a short while. I really believe that some people complain as though it were an Olympic event! Keep clear of them while you are trying to get your mojo back.

2. Maximize time with people that refuel your energy. You become the five or six people with whom you hang out the most. Hang out with people who make you want to “do” and “be” better.  Set some meetings with them.  Go to some business events together – anything that puts positive people around you.

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3. Read/listen/watch positive things. If you are feeling down, read a positive book. Listen to an audiobook or podcast with a positive message. Watch something that makes you laugh. Surround yourself with some things you love to be influenced by. Let that in to your life as much as possible.

4. Prioritize the things you want to do and must do. Make a list. As a businessman, I live by lists. The more I can get a handle on the things I need and want to do – the easier it is to tackle them.

5. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Take that list you’ve created and tackle some of that list EVERY DAY. If you really do this, you will be amazed at how much you get accomplished. The more you accomplish, the better you will feel. They feed each other.

There’s plenty more we can do to generate motivation, but I believe the list above is a good start. Also, keep this in mind: If your motivation is low it helps to step out of the small picture (the day-to-day) and remember the big picture (why are you doing what you do?). Allow yourself to be motivated by your bigger vision, and let goals drive you. Remembering why you are doing what you do in business can most certainly help you find some new energy to keep going.

If you’re still struggling with motivation after reading and trying the above, one of my friends had a great suggestion: Let your to-do list (suggestion no. 4) be driven by a short-term goal: What would you like to achieve in the next week or -- at most -- next month, that inspires you to act today? A small “win” can be very motivating.

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