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The 7 Secrets Self-Motivated Entrepreneurs Know

How do some entrepreneurs overcome obstacles, maintain intense focus, exemplify ironclad discipline and create companies out of thin air? Genius? Luck? Some secret sauce of success?

Related: 20 Quotes to Help Motivate You to Hustle Like Never Before

Much of the answer lies in motivation. How do we define that? Psychology Today defines motivation as “the desire to do things.” An even more detailed definition explains that motivation is “the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.”

When you see a rising entrepreneur star, what you’re watching is an incredible amount of motivation -- of goal-oriented behavior. Motivation is like jet power propulsion. It transforms individuals from passive participants into active leaders, maybe because they know what's in the secret sauce." Here are seven of those ingredients of motivation that the most successful entrepreneurs know.

1. They know what they are meant to do in life.

The motivation literature is vast and varied -- and it gets complicated. Yet, as diverse as motivational theories are, there’s a single thing that unites them all: Motivation answers the why.

Every human grapples with that enormous question of existence -- Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

Although a definitive and data-backed answer to that existential question has hardly been forthcoming in the last few millennia, we can at least choose an answer for ourselves.

And, one answer, as esoteric as it may sound, is that the purpose of one’s existence is a fundamental principle of life. You’ve got to know why you’re living in order to truly live.

Choose a destiny, then. Define your purpose. Chart your course. Once you answer the why, you will have unlocked the first door on the path to constant motivation.

2. They know what they’re supposed to do each day.

Motivation starts infinitely broad, but gets infinitesimally detailed. When you know what you’re supposed to do in life, you can determine what you’re supposed to do each day.

That defines successful entrepreneurs. They enter each day with a defined set of tasks, goals and objectives. Leo Babauta, who writes the blog Zen Habits, calls these “big rocks.” He describes that special knowledge like this: "The big rocks are the major things you want to get done this week."

If you have several big rocks staring you in the face each week, then your goal each day is to chip away at them. Knowing that they are there and knowing you must conquer them creates a sense of motivation that won’t quit all day long.

3. They prepare mentally for each day.

Mere knowledge of the day’s plans isn’t quite enough. There must be another level of motivational power -- a psychological trick, as it were. The motivational Instagram account, before5am, explains that mental preparation is key. The author uses four hacks to boost his own motivation:

  • Music is going to be the quickest way to snap your mind into a powerful state.

  • On your phone you can create an album of the things you want in life.

  • I look at my goals that are next to my bed straight away.

  • Plenty of great motivational material is on YouTube.

Techniques vary, but the principle holds true: Mentally prepping before your day begins is the key to dominating during the day.

4. They refuse to rely on self-discipline alone.

There’s an aura of respect and esteem that surrounds self-disciplined people. The truth is, however, that self-discipline -- willpower -- is like a muscle. And, like all muscles, willpower can be fatigued through overuse.

Self-discipline, moreover, is limited. Benjamin Franklin was famous for his pursuit of moral perfection. At the conclusion of his perfection experiment, he wrote this: "I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it."

Self-discipline will fail you, but a deep and underlying motivation will sustain you. You can use self-discipline to enhance your efforts, but don’t rely on it.

Related: 5 Motivation Blocks Hurting Your Success, and How to Transform Them

5. They are the authors of their own rule book.

A self-motivated person has the courage to create his or her own rules for life. At the same time, all members of the human race are surrounded by other people, groups, subcultures and external forces. These groups will, quite naturally, exert an influence on one’s self perception, goals, vision, and dreams.

Yet someone who is able to rise above those external pressures and create his or her own guidebook for living will create enormous personal motivation.

Another way of saying this is that self-motivated people set their own standards. And, invariably, these standards are high:

  • I will wake up at 5 a.m. daily.

  • I will not eat sugar.

  • I will not watch TV.

  • I will work every weekend.

  • I will eliminate toxic people from my life.

High standards can be hard to maintain. Yet they produce massive amounts of motivation, which in turn helps to fuel high achievement.

6. They develop insane goals.

Another way that self-motivated entrepreneurs push forward is by using the power of goals. Goal-setting does something to the mind. LifeHack’s Dustin Wax explains it like this: ""According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are -- setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image."

The science of setting goals basically says that the simple act of creating the goal helps to drive the accomplishment.

Meanwhile, some laugh at others' big goals. Some scoff at those goals. But other people set such goals. And they achieve great things. One of today’s most notable entrepreneurs is a great example of someone possessing “insane” goals: He is, of course, Elon Musk. Business Insiderhas said that, “Elon Musk sets nearly impossible goals for SpaceX employees" and that "SpaceX has a seemingly impossible objective -- the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets."

But you can’t deny that such goals have thus far pushed Elon Musk and his SpaceX employees to achieve remarkable things.

7. They never lose sight of the goal.

Merely setting a goal does not by itself propel you to an unbreakable stream of a self-motivated existence. You have to keep those goals in mind all the time.

Every day. Stuck on the mirror. Dinging on your phone. Taped to your computer. Hanging on the wall. Running through your mind. Everywhere. Always.

Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll never lose motivation.


Self-motivation is one of the underlying forces that distinguish successful entrepreneurs from those who stagger from one neglected startup to another.

Self-motivation despises the role of luck, dismisses the component of self-discipline and looks to the power of goals for ultimate achievement in life.

What are some of the things you’ve discovered that motivate you?

© 2014-2023 by Smart Group LLC.

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