I really think a champion is defined not by their wins.  But by how they can recover when they fall

Serena Williams

Last year, I had a business idea.  Following a conversation with a friend, I had a lightbulb moment to start an ethical loungewear company.  I called on friends who knew the area for help and advice.  I had a colour palette decided and a range of styles roughly sketched.  Everything in my head was ready.

Lights, Camera, Paralysis

Imagine how successful an ethical, Irish loungewear brand would have been this year?  I’ve played out so many outcomes in my head.

Once I saw what the brand could be, I got stuck there.  When I tried to hone in on the actual steps, I froze.  I had an analytical way of looking at the big picture but (and this is the reason for this article), I am ruled by my emotions, not my analytics!

And I felt a lot of fear.

What I’ve learned from three years of entrepreneurial endeavours is that it takes courage to do the small things.  With the loungewear idea, there was a fantasy in my head, lit up and advertised like a Hollywood blockbuster.  I became so caught up in that glitzy version, I found it difficult to sit down and do the small steps that are the backbone to every goal attained.  I have also discovered, that it is much easier to commit to ten, large, grandiose plans and never commit, than it is to commit to one big plan and show up every day and work on it.

Other times, when I haven’t been able to motivate myself, it has been shame. I think “People might laugh at me….  If this fails, I’ll look like a fool…”  I’ll compare myself to people, looking at their end result and not the slog that they too put in to reach that.  The Buddhists believe that a comparing mind is one of the greatest sources of suffering.  I’m inclined to believe them.

I’ve learned that nobody really cares about what we do.  If they do, they aren’t worth my time.

We can’t stop our thoughts, but it is possible to change how they are engaged with.  When I tell myself that I can’t reach a big goal, or I feel overwhelmed at not reaching it YET, I’m reinforcing negative thoughts.



 How to motivate yourself (my method)

1:  Start

Take that deep breath and plunge into the icy waters.  It always startles me to my core but I never regret it.  And for me, fear is a good motivation as it’s pushing me to try something new.

When I have a task to complete or an idea to tease out, I do feel the edge of fear creep in.  I follow the Pomodoro Technique.  I set a timer for half an hour and I put my head down and work solidly for half an hour.  Take ten minutes off and repeat.  It helps me.

2:  Forget about perfectionism, focus on getting something finished

Along with the Pomodoro technique, I embrace the advice of writer Anne Lamott:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

This shitty first draft is necessary for every creative endeavour I start.  The first time I try a new exercise, sit to write, learn a new skill.  By embracing it, it clears out so much space for me to move on and keep going.  It brings a sense of fun back into the process along with hope and optimism,

3:  Keep showing up

After a few days, motivation will dip and I’ll want to skip it because once again, I’ll have zoomed out and been paralysed by the fantasy in my head.  It takes practice, it’s rarely easy but once I set that timer, I usually fall into the details, and the work gets done.  Maybe I don’t have an ethical loungewear company but I do have other accomplishments.

Hope, optimism, and showing up daily to complete a small amount of the jigsaw, give me a sense of self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives – Bandura

The more I hone my self-efficacy, the more willing I am to take risks and to seek out more demanding challenges. Of course I’ll still freak out and not pursue some dreams.  And that’s ok too, I feel good following the ones I’m working on now, and it all starts with that first step and embracing that first draft.


Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t
want to take.

David Whyte (this is the first verse, the full poem is here)


This is part 3 of our Emotional Intelligence Series

Part 1:  Self-Awareness

Part 2:  Managing Emotions


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