Keeping Your Motivation When You’re Not Getting Results

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It’s a sentiment that we all feel at one point or another. You’re putting in the time and effort with your art. You’re writing blog posts, posting photos on Instagram, pinning and repining your work on Pinterest, sending emails to your list, making phone calls to galleries, networking at exhibitions and open studios, pitching your work to bloggers and magazines and… it. just. doesn’t. seem. to. matter. All of this effort and it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Some days you feel like quitting altogether. What’s the point? Eventually you decide to just skip that next blog post…why not? Nobody reads your blog anyway. Maybe you neglect your sales calls to galleries because you’re tired of being rejected. Or your social media networks start to look dated and stale.

If you’ve ever felt this way or you’re feeling this way now, read on. Here are 10 tips to get your motivation mojo back.

1. Let it go– Just wrote an awesome blog post? Or a truly witty tweet? Or posted a fabulous photo on Instagram? Great! Press “Publish” then let it go. Move on to the next thing on your list. Don’t refresh your Instagram feed every few seconds to see if you got any likes. Don’t check your blog post every couple hours to see if you got any comments. Don’t check Twitter to see how many times your tweet got retweeted. It’s hard…I know. It’s an impulse I have to fight on a regular basis. But it’s important not to get addicted to the feedback. Because once you start depending on the feedback, it’s going to bum you out when you don’t get it.

Not everything you do is going to get a reaction. Even if it does it may take days, weeks, months, maybe even years before you get it. And it may not even be the thing you shed blood, sweat, and tears over that gets the kudos, but the quick thing you dashed off without a second thought. You never know what will take off and for your own mental health it’s better to not to try to guess. Don’t wait for the applause…keep busy with your work so when you do get some recognition it comes as a welcome surprise.

2. Focus on the process instead of results– The difficult thing about focusing on goals like making a certain amount of sales or gaining a certain number of followers or getting a specific number of subscribers to your list is that you really don’t have much direct control over when or IF you reach that number.

Instead of focusing on a specific result, start focusing on the process that leads to that result. I did this in my personal life a couple years ago when I wanted to lose some weight. Instead of focusing on a specific goal weight, I focused on how many workouts I completed in a week. I made sure that I reached goal every single week. And it worked. The number on the scale became just that…a number. It didn’t matter so much if the number didn’t go down as fast as I wanted because the goal wasn’t the number, it was whether I worked out or not. And the weight eventually came off. Did it get boring? Hell yes. But often the key to making progress is to embrace the boring every day routine and stick to it.

Think about your current goals. What kind of activities will lead to that goal? If it’s a certain number of sales, then perhaps the activity that leads to sales is making calls to galleries. If it’s gaining followers on social media, then maybe the activity is the number of quality updates you make to your social media channel. Take that activity and break it down into a goal that you can work towards achieving every day. Make it easier to achieve by building it into a repeatable process you (or an assistant) can follow.

Then focus on repeating that process…day by day, week by week, month by month. Grade yourself on how well you’re sticking to that process. If it’s the right process, the results will come in time.

Once you start depending on feedback, it’s going to bum you out when you don’t get it Click To Tweet

3. Put results in the proper perspective– Earlier I said to launch things out in the world and not worry about the results. But that doesn’t mean that you ignore results completely either. You do have to keep an eye on things overall to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Letting go and focusing on process is good for everyday, get it done progress. But every so often you need to take time out to see if what you’re doing is actually working.

Schedule some time, perhaps once a month or once a quarter, to review your results. Check your feedback. Review what you’ve done so far. If things are going well think of how you can expand on your good results. If things aren’t going well try to find the root of the problem. Brainstorm some ways to address the problem and how to put them into action. The key is to putting your results in the proper perspective is not by reacting to feedback as it comes, but rather by getting a big picture look at what you’re doing and strategically deciding what to do next.

4. Focus on the right goals– Last year I took a wonderful CreativeLive course by Tara Gentile named, “Build a Stand-Out Business“. The most useful exercises in the course revolved around identifying what kind of business you want, what your identity is, what you stand for, and the creating goals that conformed to that vision. Why was this useful? Because the goals for your business need to revolve around those very important points. If you’re not clear on what you stand for and what you want to accomplish, then there’s little wonder why you’re not getting traction.

If you can’t easily explain to someone who you are, who your business serves, what your business stands for, and what your overarching goal is for your business, take some time to iron that out. It’s difficult to focus on something if you don’t have a focus. Tara Gentile’s course has loads of excellent information on how to figure this out. Maria Isa Seminega’s book, “The Creative Entrepreneur” also has some excellent chapters on that score as well.

5. Celebrate your wins both large and small– When you’re knee deep in the weeds everyday it’s easy to overlook the smaller wins and incremental progress you’re making. It’s important to take note of and celebrate all of progress you make in your business no matter the size. One way that I’ve started doing this is by performing a weekly review every Monday morning. The purpose of the review is to look back on the past week, make note of what went well, what needs to be improved and what the game plan is for the upcoming week.

One of the first exercises in the weekly review is to write down and celebrate at least ten wins you’ve made during the past week no matter how small. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ten things and sometimes I end up writing down much more than ten. But what makes the exercise worthwhile is being able to look back and seeing your progress in black and white.

6. Avoid things that put you in a bad mood– One of things that can really bum me out is when I get a notice from Mailchimp telling me that someone unsubscribed from my list. If you have a mailing list, unsubscribes are a fact of life no matter how good your emails are. That still doesn’t make me feel better when I see that unsubscribe notice. So what did I do? I turned off the unsubscribe alert. Unsubcribes happen, but that doesn’t mean that I need to see them happen.

There’s usually something in your life that that can put you in a negative mood. Maybe it’s unsubscribes, maybe its a colleague or friend that’s always negative, maybe it’s the constant success stories you might be seeing on social media (Marie Forleo has a great video about this). If you can cut these negative things out of your life do so. If you can’t, minimize them as much as possible.

Celebrate all of progress you make in your business no matter how big or small Click To Tweet

7. Shift your focus outwards– Sometimes the best way to handle a downward spiral of demotivation is to take the focus off yourself and put it onto others. It’s hard to ruminate on your own lack of progress when you’re trying to help others. Look around for ways to help other artists in your community. Build up some alliances and collaborations with other creatives. Make it a point to share content from other artists on social media, on your blog, or to your mailing list. One of the benefits of helping others is that it can put you in a better frame of mind. And sometimes a better mood is all that it takes to reinvigorate the enthusiasm for your own business. Also, the people you work with are usually appreciative of any help you give and sometimes they’ll find ways return the favor. But don’t offer help with the expectation that people will reciprocate. Helping is gift. If you give help expecting help in return you’re turning your gift into a transaction. And you’ll end up feeling angry and cheated if you don’t get help in return. Let the feeling of being helpful be it’s own reward.

8. Stop whining– It’s natural to want to throw yourself a pity party every now and then. Feeling like you’re just screaming into the void is no fun. But it’s not going to get you anywhere. Neither will getting angry at the world, getting jealous of the seemingly easy success of other artists, or blaming imports for ruining your business. The only thing these negative emotions will do is sabotage your momentum and kill your creativity. I found a particularly great “tough love” passage from film director Werner Herzog in Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, “Big Magic

“Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you must, but stop whining and get back to work.”

Remember…being a creative is hard. Success is not guaranteed.

You never know when success will come. But you need to be there when it does Click To Tweet

9. Take care of yourself– It’s hard to stay motivated and engaged with your business if you’re exhausted. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, that you’re eating right and that you’re taking some time to get some exercise in your day. When you’re working hard it’s easy to neglect your need for sleep and exercise. Try to incorporate a regular sleep and exercise schedule in your day. Melissa Dinwiddie has a great podcast episode on how to build sleep and and exercise habit into your day.

If you’ve been working without much of a break what you may be feeling is the beginning of burnout. This might be a good time to take a step back for a period of time to recharge yourself. Change up your routine. Take a bit of time to relax. Hang out with your family and friends. Read a new book for fun. Spend sometime learning something new. Take a course in something you’ve always been interested in. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic“, she relayed a story of how starting a new garden lead her to write one of her most recent novels, “The Signature of All Things“. Make taking time off from your business to recharge your mental batteries a regular thing.

10. Be patient and persistent– Lastly, remember to be patient. This is the hardest piece of advice to take because success usually comes a lot more slowly and with a lot more effort than we would like. Cézanne painted his entire adult life and his career didn’t really take off until he was in his fifties. Hopefully your success won’t take that long, but you never know when it will come. But you need to be there when it does. Be patient. Be persistent.

While being a creative can be exciting and fulfilling life it can be a tough road too. It’s a lot of hard work and very often rejection and failure can far outweigh the big successes. Like everything else, your motivation will come in waves. When you start feeling your motivation slip away, remember to take care of yourself, celebrate your small successes, focus on your work, and above all, be patient!

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