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Knowing what motivates you will help you succeed as an author

What motivates you to succeed? Years ago, when I first started working from home, I was motivated by several things: the need to eat, the need to keep my home out of foreclosure, the need to keep the lights and heat on—the need to provide for myself and my son.

To do this, I set my sights on reaching the level of manager in the company I had joined. I had plenty of motivation. But something was missing. Months went by and I didn’t seem to be making much progress toward my goal. What was wrong?

On a rainy, overcast Saturday in the Pacific Northwest, my business mentor and I met for a goal setting session. When he asked what level I wanted to achieve in the company, I said I wanted to become a manager like he was. The company needed as many managers as it could get and by becoming a manager, I would be earning my mentor some nice bonuses. In fact, the month before, he had offered a trip for two to Cozumel, Mexico to anyone in his division who made the level of manager by the end of the year.

Before I could finish my sentence, my mentor was shaking his head. “You know, I’ve been in this business a long time and I just don’t think you have what it takes to become a manager,” he said in his thick southern drawl. “I think you’ve set your sights too high.”

Excuse me? My mentor was discouraging me from setting a higher goal? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. At first, I thought he was joking or using reverse psychology. But after a few minutes, it was clear he believed what he’d said.

I left shortly afterwards. Holding back my tears until I was in the safety of my car, I drove home bewildered and hurt.  By the time I walked into my living room, I was so angry I swore then and there that I’d “show him.” (Maybe this was his plan all along, but I don’t think so based on his later behavior).

Never tell a Norwegian woman she can’t do something. We are more than willing to prove you wrong. By the end of the year, I reached my goal. I was a manager! I felt great about what I’d accomplished, though I never did get the “dream vacation” my mentor had promised.

So why couldn’t I reach manager by myself without this added push? Sure, I needed the position and the money it entailed, but what I really needed was to dig deeper, to find something that meant more to me than the money. In this case, it was my sense of self. I didn’t want to see myself as a failure. I didn’t want to prove my “mentor” right.

How can you apply this to your writing? Once you’ve written down your writing goals, next to each goal, write down your “Whys” (as NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer calls them in his book, Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author). Go beyond the money, fame, and book-signing parties. Dig deep to discover what will truly motivate you to reach your goals. Find the WHY that lights your fire and makes you burn.

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