Keep Myself Motivated

I started my own business in 2012. What led me to starting it is a story for another chapter. For now, all I can say it wasn’t about “making the big bucks” that made me take the plunge. What I would like to focus in this writing is the essence of what kept me motivated.

My work requires me to travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur often. Day trips and back to back meetings are a norm for me in order to reduce cost and maximise my time. I often get ask “Don’t you get tired with the hectic schedule?”, “How come you always seem positive?”, “What keeps you going?”. Initially I didn’t give much thought to it because I thought it was the excitement of starting something new that gave me the momentum.

Recently a few more people made similar comment and that led me to this writing. It has been a long 5 years. Business is finally starting to pick up. I am still at the level where I need to be very careful how I spend every cent.  So it can’t be the excitement of the new venture that has kept me this long. So what was it?

As a person who enjoys reflecting and obsessed with looking at fundamentals of things, here are my thoughts on what kept me going and I believe it can be replicated even if you are in employment.


It is a common misconception among most employed individual that running your own business is the ultimate goal. The assumption is if you have your own business, you get to make your money and manage your own time. This will make you happy. This is far from the truth. The truth is, when you run your own business, you are the slave to your clients.

The ultimate goal in life for most people (I believe) is attaining a sense of fulfillment and happiness that transcends money. Think about it, it is not money that makes us happy. It is what money get us that makes us happy.

The ingredient of what makes us happy and ultimately the source of motivation (in my opinion) is achieved through a combination of meaningful achievement, qualityrelationship and a sense of growth in oneself.

The good news is the source of motivation lies in us. The not so good news is we need to really dig deep within us to find out the ‘what’; like a rough uncut diamond, our job is to locate it, chip the rubble around it, clean it, cut it to size and polish it to reveal its true value.

Here are some questions I found helpful in my exploration:

What achievements do I find meaningful? Is it about being recognised as an expert or being in a position of control or achieving set goals?
What do I value in my relationship? Is it a relationship that gives me a sense of certainty or one which makes me feel special or one which allows me to give to others?
How do I see myself giving back to the community/society at large? Is it about meeting unmet needs? Or is it about making things around me better?

The thing about motivation is it changes with new experiences and perspectives unlike behaviour which tends to be more permanent.

I also found that once I identify the fundamentals of what motivates me, I am able to come up with creative ways to achieve them; one which does not require me to spend a lot of money on.

Here is a personal example. What motivates me is meeting unmet needs. In the past, this meant trying to solve people’s problem even if they feel don’t feel the need to address it. This has led to numerous misunderstanding and frustration between my friends and I. Today, I do this by looking at things I can fix around the house for my wife and daughter. Once I understood the fundamentals, it allows me to find replacement activities.


I discovered that in the workplace we are mostly conditioned to look at things from a ‘tangible outcome’ perspective.

Example, in the workplace, the success of our work is based on defined goals and deadline. This type of achievement tends to suit those who are motivated by achieving goals.

While this is the most obvious way we can look at the situation, we can also make a conscious effort to look at completing the task from a relationship angle or ‘giving back’ angle. We are in control of selecting our perspective.

From a relationship angle, we can focus on the friends and connections we make during the process of completing the task.

From a ‘giving back’ angle’ we can focus on ‘how we are making a difference’ and ‘the new skills attained through the attainment of the business goals’.

By selecting the perspective aligned to our motivators, we will be more energised by the activities we are working on. The key here is conscious selection of our perspective.


While our organisation and leaders try their best to motivate us, the best they can do is inspire us. I see the action of others trying to motivate us as merely inspiring because true motivation comes from within. Inspiration is like a ‘booster jab’. It keeps us feeling good for a while but it eventually fizzles resistance will create drag to slow us back to our point of origin. away. Inspiration makes it easy for us to start but if we don’t ignite our motivators to sustain us, natural

The reality of life is that we are responsible for ourselves. So keeping ourselves motivated is our responsibility, not the organisation or our leaders. Their effort to inspire us is driven by the need to ensure we achieve their goals.

Investing to keep us motivated would require either our finances or our time or a combination of both. Let me share my personal example. I enjoy building stuff because ‘mastery’ is one of my motivator.

Early this year I wanted to have a planter in my garden to grow vegetables. I have the choice of hiring a carpenter to build it or I could build it myself. Logically, getting someone to build it is ‘cheaper’ from a cost-time ratio analysis (e.g. my 1-hour of work cost more than the carpenter’s 1-hour and I would probably take a longer time than the carpenter to complete it). The investment I made to keep my self-motivated is to set aside time to build the planter.
(In total, I built 3 pride and job)


One of the main reasons we find it hard to keep ourselves motivated is because we ‘fear’ losing out. The capitalistic nature of our world has driven us in the direction of ‘achieving (tangible) success in the fastest possible time’. We laud people who become millionaire at a young age but sees someone who made their first million as 50 as nothing fantastic.

Most of us use wealth and material possession as a comparison of ‘success’. When was the last time you saw someone proudly claim “spending time with his family” as a great success?

There is a tendency to use a ‘standardised’ measurement to measure success. This takes away our focus on the success that truly matters. This is akin to runners on a race track with only 1 clearly defined goal (finish line) at a clearly defined distance. In such a scenario, we running the race we become flustered when someone overtakes us. In fact when they overtake us, it is as if we are programmed to run even faster to pass them. While this laser sharp focus might be motivating to some, not everyone is.

While we may not have the privilege to choose which race track we are put on or define the finish line (by the fact we are all on the same planet earth), we can (by shifting our perspective), focus just on our lane, run our own race, smile at those who overtake us and be happy with the progress we made. If what makes us happy is to pause and take a breather, doing so will allow us to keep going till we eventually complete the race
  • Peter Isaac
    Peter Isaac
    Chief Executive Officer

    Let's not confuse loyalty with longevity It is interesting that the issue of loyalty in the workplace is still an issue for many leaders in the 21st century organisation. Allow me to weigh in on this topic. Understanding loyalty The online Cambridge dictionary define loyalty as 'the quality of being loyal' and 'your feelings of support'. The emphasis is on the 'feeling towards', not on years of service. Unfortunately most people still define workplace loyalty with years of service. Historically, employees in the past stayed long with a company for one of three reasons; jobs were scarce, work was seen as a means to an end (because our expectation of life is geographically bound) and they forged strong relationship with their co-workers. Scarcity of jobs made people value job security, people work for a living and the pace and type of work were slow and routine that people have time to forge strong relationships. So, people stayed because the organisation then provided them with what they need; a sense of security, friendship and a means for living. Times have changed. Through education and the ability to travel, we are taught to find a job 'we love'. In a connected world, we are bombarded by messages of 'what we could be'. This increases ones' desire and wants. Job security is replaced by job satisfaction, working for a living is replaced by the 'opportunity to realize one's potential' and friendship is 'virtually' everywhere. Is loyalty the real issue? If you are a leader and focuses on loyalty, perhaps the issue isn't about loyalty but more about how them moving makes our job more difficult. Loyalty is a two way street. If we want loyalty, we need to give loyalty. Would you recommend your employee to another department if you know their interest is in another department or would you keep that information or even dissuade them so they can continue to help you achieve your goal? If you know there isn't any opportunity for your employee to move up in your organisation, would you get them to consider getting a job somewhere else that would help them achieve their ambition? If your answer to both this question is 'no', then perhaps your issue is not about loyalty but rather it is about making things convenient for you. A one way loyalty is akin to slavery, don't you think? Loyalty to the relationship, not the organisation Loyalty is an emotion and in my opinion, loyalty is to a relationship. While organisation is made up of people, more often than not, decisions made are based on 'sound decision making' (a nicer way to say don't allow emotion to be involved in the decision making). Organisations are a great place to develop skills and also understand how the world works BUT if you want loyalty, you need to invest in others. Start with career conversations. Get to know your employee, find out what are they looking for, develop a plan which fulfills their needs and yours. This create a win-win partnership. If they give you more than you expect, that is a bonus. The benefit of this approach is that you are able to anticipate when your employee might move on and be prepared for it. As an organisational leader, our job is to achieve the organisation's goal. As a person, our role is to develop others. Why can't we do both at the same time?

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