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10 things highly successful people do to stay motivated

September 30, 2015, 8:00 PM UTC
Businessman sitting at desk raising fist, rear view
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Answer by Nelson Wang on Quora.

When I was in 20 years old and studying at UCLA, I flunked an economics class. I was devastated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I got an “A” when I retook the course.

When I was 22, I interviewed with four different managers at a Fortune 100 company and was ranked pretty much last in every interview. I didn’t get a single job offer. I was frustrated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I have my dream job now.

When I was 25, I created nine iPhone apps, all of which failed miserably. I spent a ridiculous amount of time and money building them and felt really bummed. Guess what happened? Since then, I’ve built another four iPhone apps and all four of them hit the top 100 in the business, lifestyle and entertainment section.

When I was 28, I found out my mentor and friend Erik, who was like a brother to me, passed away from cancer. That was one of the toughest times in my life. Guess what happened? I bounced back. Because that’s what Erik would have wanted.

What I’ve noticed over the last 30 years of my life is that there is a recurring pattern to successfully motivating myself. This pattern helped me get back on track, even during times that felt like rock bottom. I’ve also asked numerous executives from Cisco, MTV, Bank of America, VMware, Box and Optimizely what their secrets to motivation are. In addition to that, I’ve also read numerous books on motivation from authors like Tony Robbins to Daniel Pink. So I’ve put together a list of the 10 things successful people do to motivate themselves:

Understand your ‘why’
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

Understand your purpose and it will fuel your drive. If I told you that it was your job to sort through a box of potatoes and to throw away the rotten ones, would you feel a strong sense of purpose? Or would you feel like a cog in a machine? Now, what if I told you that by sorting out the bad potatoes you were helping out the local food bank in supplying fresh food to needy families in the area — would that change your perspective and your sense of purpose in the work?

Now that you understand the purpose of the work, does it potentially change your attitude or perhaps even your choice of work? I’m not here to dictate what purpose is. Everyone’s got a different definition based on their experiences in life and their own values. But what I do want to ask you is this: What does purpose mean to you? Find your why. If you don’t know what it is, create it. That will motivate you to make a difference.

Stay focused on the big picture
“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” — Oprah Winfrey

Admit it. There will be days where work will feel boring; when tasks feel repetitive; when you feel like you have 100 things to do on your checklist. Or when you’re just plain irritated. The easy thing to do is give up. Or you could stay focused on the big picture.

When I worked at a Fortune global 2000 company, I started a weekly partner training program that quickly grew from 20 attendees to well over 150 sales representatives at its peak. One of my co-workers was upset because he felt like it would end up creating more work for him. But if I caved and stopped doing the trainings so that my co-worker wouldn’t feel obligated to do more work, do you know what would have happened? We wouldn’t have created $1.6M in the pipeline, that’s for sure. That’s why you’ve always got to keep your eye on the big picture.

Get active
A lot of times it’s hard to get motivated if you’re not in a good mood. Research has shown that working out multiple times a week for a reasonable period of time can reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercising for 30 minutes can also increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which can help to reduce stress. Personally, I’ve noticed that when I exercise for at least 30 minutes (especially in the morning), I’m more relaxed throughout the day and am able to think much more clearly.

Also, if you’re pushing yourself in your workouts, you’re testing your boundaries and this can be really healthy. For example, I had never run a half marathon before and I decided to step up to the challenge this year. It was painful, but after I finished, I immediately thought, “If I can do this, what else I am capable of?” Pushing yourself physically will also motivate you to push yourself intellectually, and in other parts of your life — like your career.

Have an accountability buddy
Let’s say you set a goal of signing on 100 new customers within a year. Now share that goal with some of your closest friends and colleagues. Guess what? You’ve just signed up for peer pressure and this is a great way to keep yourself motivated at work. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you hear someone down the hall say, “Hey, how are you doing in your goal of 100 new customers?” Still don’t think that’s motivating? How about an additional 50 coworkers also asking that same question? I think that’ll motivate you.

Read motivational quotes
Whatever motivational quote you decide on, print it out and tape it to your mirror. Or if you want to get fancy with it, take a marker and write it on the mirror. That’ll get you going in the morning.

Create small, bite-sized goals
There’s a reason donut holes are so lovable. They’re easy to eat. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a dozen of them. This is how goals should be too. Of course you should have a really big, audacious goal. But make sure you break down that goal into bite-sized, consumable goals. This way you’ll feel like you’re making progress in your journey and you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the smaller goals. A feeling of progress and achievement is a beautiful combination.

Have fun
If you’re having fun, you’re going to be more motivated to do great work. Do you notice that when you’re having fun, you’re more charismatic, upbeat and optimistic? Do you notice that you’re more productive because you’re actually enjoying the work? Do you notice you’re motivating other team members because you’re making the work environment awesome? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Find time to meditate
“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

We live in a world of information overload. Because of that, our brains sometimes get overstimulated and that’s not a good thing. That’s why we need to meditate. Calm down. Close your eyes. Lie down. Ok fine, you’re probably sitting in front of a computer –just sit up straight then. Breath slowly in and out. Do you feel a sense of calm wash over you? Do you notice thoughts starting to creep in? Push them out and focus only on your breathing.

Write down your ideas
Not all of your ideas will be good, but it doesn’t matter. Write them down anyway. Your great ideas will come when you least expect them. Eventually, after you jot down 100 ideas, chances are that you’ll have at least one good idea. It’s incredibly motivating when you discover that you can come up with good ideas.

Visualize the future
Need motivation? Think about what you’re going to achieve. Think about the impact you’re going to make. Think of the future you’re going to create. Visualize it.
Go make it happen, because it’s never too late.

This article originally appeared on Quora: How can I motivate myself to work hard?

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