Binod Shankar

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Self-help for Leaders: A dozen ways to motivate yourself


Whatever you call it (motivation, drive, passion etc.) you need to be driven from inside to do the great things that are expected from you as a leader. But the higher you go the lonelier and more insulated you will be. This piece tells you how to light that inner fire and keep that burning. 

The challenge 

We’ve all been there. 

One day we are full of pizzazz for a new project (personal or professional) but we never start and we keep pushing the start date. 

Or we start but soon, after a few weeks or months we simply don’t have that in us anymore although the project is as important (or even more important) today as it was when you first started. 

Anyway, this lack of motivation hit home hard when one of my coaching clients, a few days after a long discussion with me on purpose, values, goals etc., said “Binod I’m not motivated to start”.

So, Whiskey Tango Delta? 


I conducted a mini survey. I asked a few connections in middle and senior management, including a few CFA charter holders, how they managed to keep themselves motivated. The below are the 12 ways they used:

1. Purpose

Start with why. 

Revisit why you’re doing this. Perhaps the exam you’re studying for will help you get into your chosen field. Perhaps all the training will help you stand on that mountain summit. Perhaps researching and investing into a portfolio will help you become financially free 20 years from now. 

Find your why. 

2. Steps 

Sit down and break it down step by step. 

There’s usually a process and you must trust the process. Following the steps gives you visibility and a sense of progress as you climb one step after another. 

3. Chunking 

Break the task into manageable chunks of time. 

You’ll have many things to do in one day. So, tell yourself upfront that the goal is not to finish this tough task in one go but to start now and continue later. That way you don’t get frustrated when you don’t finish the task in one sitting. 

This always works for me. 

4. Rewards 

Treat yourself.

Combine the ugly task with something you like or reward yourself after doing it. Like allowing yourself 30 mins of social media for every 2 hrs of work. Or listening to music after a slot of work. 

5. Afterwards 

Think about how it will feel when you overcome the problem / task.  

There are two ways of doing this. 

You can imagine how happy you will be after you’ve have done that task. 

Or you can think how less stressed you will be once you do it. Because until you do it, you’ll have this nagging feeling, a mix of anxiety and guilt that refuses to go away. Completing the task hence also means you feel less stressed and burdened.

6. Easier 

Compare it to other things which are easy or became easy. 

I recently put together a simple furniture item that I’d bought from IKEA. I’d never done this before so I started with doubts and a bit of anxiety (what if I can’t do it and then I’ll have to call IKEA). But i stuck to it and it turned out to be easy. 

Once you start, you’ll usually find your way if you’re motivated. 

7. Deadline

Some people are best motivated when there is a deadline.

In which case always seek a deadline and if there isn’t one, then fix one yourself.

Once there is a deadline (and you believe in the deadline), then all other steps fall in place; the planning, the breaking down into smaller tasks etc.

Believing in the deadline is the hardest part: because the procrastinator in you is most likely brilliant at pushing the deadline further for excellent reasons. 

8. Advice 

Talk to others. 

Ask them how to crack the problem or task and suddenly you may find a more efficient and/or effective solution. That may motivate you to start or (if you’ve started) to finish the task. 

9. Flow 

Aim for flow. 

There’s always the chance that you become so immersed in and enjoy the activity it’s no longer a chore.

The task itself becomes the motivation, much like the classic concept of Flow. 

10. Payoffs

Think of the benefit/s of doing it. 

This makes the reason/s to do it more compelling and clearer and hence triggers action.

11. Negatives

This is the opposite of payoffs.

Try and visualize what would be the outcome if you don’t do the task. More often than not that is an outcome that would be worse. 

After you visualize the negative outcome, you will probably start to immediately work on the task. 

12. Finitude

Nothing lasts forever. 

If you know that it will hurt just remind yourself that it can’t last for long. 

Whether it’s having a crucial but difficult conversation or running a marathon or listening to a boring but important presentation or meeting just remember that it will all pass. 


It doesn’t matter how talented, qualified or experienced you are. If you’re a leader you must motivate yourself because people are watching you 24/7. You must set the benchmark. 

As an executive coach this is part of what I do. I’m not in the business of motivating people; I make them think hard, help generate options and give them the concepts, tools and techniques to go wherever they wish to go. 

Ability is common. It’s the willingness that’ll transform you. 

Impress yourself.