I’m often asked where my motivation comes from.
My short answer: it comes from my deep desire to make my art business successful. I daydreamed about becoming a full-time artist for so long, and once I had the opportunity I wanted it to work out so badly. I hate letting myself down. And since I’m just a one-woman show right now, if I don’t hustle, it won’t happen. And I’d be a very sad person if I failed!
Even though I had a great job, it’s no surprise my heart wasn’t in it 100%. I was sad that I wasn’t following my creative passion all the time. I was frustrated that I couldn’t devote more time and energy into my art business. I had this yearning to have my life centered around creativity, and my reality wasn’t matching my vision.
When I quit my day job last summer, my reality finally matched my vision. And the scary thing was, I didn’t have any more excuse for how slow my business was growing. There was no “oh, well I have a day job and don’t have time to do my art and make my business happen!” It was time to hustle. It was time to do what I said I wanted to do for a long time. People around me seemed to think I could do it, and I had to prove to myself I could do it, too.
It’ll have been 6 months since I quit my day job when this post comes out, and the best thing about running my own show is actually not the fact I have more time to make art (because actually, I do a lot of other stuff to run the business than making art…), but it’s the fact I get to make decisions about my work and do what I love on my own terms. It also means if I slack off, it’ll take me longer to achieve my goals or not at all.
Sure it can be hard and stressful, and there are many annoying things about being your own boss. But it’s also extremely fulfilling. I just love it and want to protect it as much as I can!
With that said, I have other tools to keep me motivated and disciplined for the long run. Hope you’ll find them helpful!
1. Find your “why”
When I work for a goal, like working out regularly and sticking to a healthy eating habit, I need to have a very clear purpose. If I don’t understand why I’m doing something, I tend to be less engaged with the process, and it usually won’t last.
So when I quit my day job last summer, I spent half a day creating my artist manifesto. I went through a whole process to clarify why it’s important for me to have art and creativity as a center piece of my life. It’s a declaration of how I want to be in the world. You can peek into my process here.
My artist manifesto is put up on the wall by my desk, and every time I look at it, I feel encouraged and centered.
2. Seanwes podcast
I get SO much motivation about creativity and business from a handlettering artist/entrepreneur, Sean McCabe’s contents (especially his podcasts and YouTube channel). When I feel like slacking off, I listen to his podcast and get fired up immediately. You must check out his work if you’re a creative entrepreneur!
This 2-minute video always gives me the motivation boost! Show up every day for two years.
3. Public Commitment
When I’m working on something big or new, I like to let the public (i.e. social media & blog) know that I’m doing it and when. It worked really well when I worked on my 365 Day Happiness Project from 2014-2015. Even though my audience probably isn’t tracking what I’m doing as closely as I am, it gives me the extra motivation to say it out loud to the people who support my work.
4. Track your progress
I like to write down what I’ve accomplished every day. For most days, it’s small things like, writing a blog, sketching ideas for new work, or shipping my Etsy orders etc. But I’m no longer saying “What did I do today?” and actually see how productive I’ve been. And if I hadn’t been productive, I could review the day to see where I got stuck.
What’s great about tracking your progress, ideally every day, is that you can see how your everyday small accomplishments are helping you achieve your big goals. What you do every day, though it might seem unimportant, counts.
I hate doing finances. I just find no joy in the bookkeeping activity! But I make myself do my finances at the beginning of each month. I usually have a pretty good idea about how much revenue I had the previous month, but it’s nice to see the actual numbers especially if it’s more than what you thought! And it makes the year-end tax preparation a lot easier…
I also started tracking my social media following monthly a few months ago. I don’t want to put too much weight on how many people follow me on social media, but it’s good to know that my audience is growing 🙂
5. Accountability Partner
I have a few accountability partners I meet on a monthly basis. Having a one-on-one accountability and a dedicated time and space to talk about your goals and challenges is very helpful. It’s like when I know we have a visitor, we do a better job of cleaning our house. When I know I’m going to have my accountability meetings, I’ll be extra motivated to get stuff done. I wrote my experience with my accountability partners here and here if you’re interested!
6. Set a deadline for a project (even if it’s fake!)
I’m not gonna lie – If I don’t have a deadline for a project, it will NOT get done. It’s a fact. When someone (usually a personal friend) wants me to do something for them and tell me “whenever you have time, no rush!” It just won’t happen. I need a hard deadline to get motivated!!
So when I don’t have an external deadline assigned to me, I usually set one for myself and pretend it’s the hard and fast timeline to get something done by. I often combine this with the public commitment piece for extra motivation!
For example, when I had offered to teach my block printing class and group coaching sessions this spring at a local art school, I set the dates and time for the classes first and started promoting them before I had the contents. This way I have to make it happen, and it helps me backwards plan all the steps to execute it.
7. Develop habits that set you up for a long-term success
Of course, I’m human, and if I’m on all the time, I’ll eventually burn out. I believe firmly that avoiding burn-out is one of my top priorities for my long-term success and well-being. If I lose joy in what I do or get sick because I neglect to take care of myself, all bets are off, right?
Some of the habits I’ve developed for self-care are: getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, getting up early and do something productive first thing in the morning, workout regularly, eating a healthy diet, no social media during meals, making sure I have plenty of alone/quiet time, and taking every 7th week off to recharge.
As you can imagine, maintaining these habits are not always easy! It means you have to say no to many things you enjoy doing. But that’s the thing about habits – once you get used to doing something over and over, you’ll start to feel off-balance if you don’t do it! And even if you slip every once in a while, it’ll be a lot easier to get back into it. If you’re trying to replace some of your unhelpful habits with more helpful ones, I say go slow, focus on one thing at a time! Be patient and kind to yourself if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want. Developing new habits takes time.
Finding your motivation isn’t easy – especially if you’ve been trying hard for a long time and haven’t seen any significant results. These tools have helped me find a motivation when I felt like crawling into a hole and forget about everything. I hope it’ll inspire you to come up with strategies that work for you!
Take care, my friend 🙂
p.s. My Creative Coaching service is officially open! Let me know if you’re a creative person needing help getting stuff done. Learn more here.
5 thoughts on “7 Tools to Find and Keep Your Motivation”
This is a great post! I love your artist manifesto – that’s such a good idea. I think I might have to make one 🙂 I also think tracking your progress is really important. I’ve started doing that and it makes a big difference! I’ve never tracked my social media followers that closely but I might start. Watching the numbers might motivate me to put more effort into those platforms and grow my audience. I feel more motivated already!
Thank you Stephanie! Glad my post was helpful 🙂 creating the artist manifesto was super fun and insightful. It’s been 6 months since I made it but all the things I wrote there still resonate with me. Yuko
This is such a very helpful post. Thank you so much yoko! I’m bit of a beginner myself. Still in med school though. But i’m hoping to start a creative blog to blow off some steam. I hope your business works out well for you
Thank you for your comment! I’m happy to hear my post was helpful 🙂 blogging about my process was a bit scary at first but also very helpful for me to put my thoughts in writing. Good luck with your adventure as well ! Keep in touch:) Yuko
Yeah. I kinda get how scary it feels. I’ve already started blogging how much more in calligraphy/hand lettering. Somehow it’s good to have a great community in wordpress to find inspiration from. 🙂 Gab