How to stay motivated when the going gets tough

How to stay motivated when the going gets tough

When times get tough, don’t ignore the problem, give in to the temptation to distract yourself, or blame others for what’s gone wrong. In this article, leadership coach John Williams makes the case for a vision, mission and purpose to keep your motivation strong and rally support around you through the inevitable challenges of aiming high.


Mar 19, 2022

5 mins read

Everybody who has ever tried to create anything worthwhile knows the gut-wrenching doubts that assail you when you take successive hits. Your partner quits, the money doesn’t come through, and then the big deal goes to your competition. You feel battered and bruised, and giving up seems like the smart thing to do. How do you keep going? Where do you turn to find the fuel, the courage to put your heart and soul on the line again, and again and again?

At times like these, many people put their head down and deal with the immediate issues, ignoring the elephant in the room: the real problem that has to be resolved. Even more people distract themselves: open a bottle of whisky or head out to a club to party away their misery. Others go home and blame their partner for distracting them from their ‘real’ work in an attempt to shift the blame off their shoulders and onto their partner’s.

To stay on course, you need a sense of vision, mission and purpose – your WHY. Even more importantly, you need the support of people who share your vision, support your mission and love the greater purpose that drives you. 

Setting yourself up for success

You’re probably sick to death of hearing about having a vision and/or a mission and/or a purpose. You might think these are just clichés. And they are, unless they’re connected to your Unique Being and linked to form a motivational chain in service of a greater purpose. 

Your vision is the end game and may not even be achievable in your lifetime – certainly not on your own. Your mission describes specific actions you can undertake in service of your vision. Deeper, and more connected to your Unique Being, is your purpose, making it harder to define. It’s the buzz you get from waking every morning knowing you get to work on your mission. The right motivation comes from the right place,: your heart. – Your big WHY – comes from your Unique Being, the essence of who you are.  

Finding your unique vision, mission and purpose

Why are you building your own business or going after the job you want? Why do you want to be successful? What are you going to do with success once you’ve achieved it? Core to answering these questions is the answer to yet another question: how does your ambition align with your values – with who you really are? If your ambition isn’t aligned with your values, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what your vision for the future really is.

Statistically, the odds against any human being even existing are monumental. Add the odds against you being who you are, and the only logical conclusion is that you are impossible! So why are you here? What greater good are you serving? The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover your WHY. This is where responsibility comes into play. You can’t just sit back and wait for inspiration to hit you or hope that one day you will wake up and magically know your greater purpose. If you want to connect with your greater purpose, then you must take responsibility for understanding who you really are.  

The best place to begin the search for your WHY is your values. Ask yourself what’s important to you, what matters. What can you no longer ignore? Maybe that’s what you want to eradicate from humanity. Your values will give you the compass bearings to find your true vision. Your vision must be representative of your greater purpose, aligned with your values and way too big for you to achieve on your own. The need to enlist others to work with you to bring your vision to life is key to it being realised. It's about creating the opportunity to give and receive contributions from others who share your vision. A company of humans in pursuit of a common vision has a powerful effect, as multiple contributions are always greater than the sum of the individual efforts.  

With your vision in mind, you can now work out your  mission. What’s your role in bringing your vision into reality? Your mission will align with your capabilities, experience, education, and talents. It’s the contribution you know in your heart and mind you can deliver in service of your vision, the greater good you want to see in your lifetime. Your mission is personal to you – only you know the truth about what you can or cannot do. But like your vision, it’s not meant to be a secret. My mission is to create conversations to enlighten people, coach and inspire them to do the same and be the difference they want to see. Making yourself accountable for achieving your mission by broadcasting it as broadly as possible creates the opportunity for others to join in and help you on your way.  You never know who might be listening or who knows who. 

The next step is your purpose. Your purpose fuels your mission to achieve your vision, and it can be your little secret because it’s personal to you. Every day it rewards you for your persistence to keep going, no matter what assails you. This is core to who you are – a reward for simply being you. My purpose is love. I have the privilege of assisting people to live their lives their way, often achieving vastly more than they believed possible. For me, that’s love, and it feels amazing. My purpose is the reason I will persist in my mission, doing my part to bring my vision into reality. I might never get to live in my utopia, but that’s not the point. Big visions can take multiple lifetimes to fulfil. What is important is that I am pursuing a vision I believe will make the world a better place and that I can contribute to realising this vision, which makes me feel great knowing my life matters, and I cannot be stopped.

When you're struggling; when the world is closing in, and it's hard to see the way forward, that's when your vision for the future – your drive to do the work because it matters to someone other than yourself (your greater purpose) – becomes your sheet anchor in the storm. You can hold fast to your mission because you want and deserve your dose of purpose – the sense of meaning that gets you out of bed, fired up and marching on. What’s your dream that, if it were brought to fruition, would make you smile to yourself as you leave this world, knowing you’ve made a difference?

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