What motivates us as individuals and as business owners? What causes us to get up in the morning or the middle of the night and ponder our businesses and our lives? What inner spark or outer influence creates the thoughts in our heads that translate into actions?
I think about these questions often. I wonder if I am different from others - if I somehow have some secret motivation that propels me forward in spite of…well, everything. This life is not for the faint of heart. I had to convince my family to go to art school; I defended my decision with co-workers to leave my day job and start my business; I had to overcome myself and my own prejudices to enter the wedding industry, and I continually fight society's norms with my personal life choices regarding marriage and children. I’ve always taken the road less traveled, and while some may find it commendable, it oftentimes means feeling completely lost in the woods.
So how do you stay motivated when it seems like things just aren’t working out, in spite of your best efforts? I’m going to be honest: I don’t really have a good answer here. When my mom got sick, I knew it was going to be a tough road. I wasn’t aware of just how tough, because nothing can fully prepare you for such a task, but I was not under any illusions regarding the outcomes. My mom's cancer treatments were only going to extend her life, not save it. We knew this from the beginning, and as a family we chose to give her those few extra years. My motivation at that time was to be there for her in any way I could and to make her life as comfortable as possible.
I also wanted to maintain my business to the best of my ability. Not just maintain, but expand to ensure that it would still be there when the illness took her life, so that I could continue to make a living doing what I love. I felt it would be a damn shame if, after all of my hard work, I was left with nothing because I had let my business go. I didn’t want this illness to destroy my life as well.
I also felt a strong obligation to my clients. Their families were not suffering tragedy. Their families were celebrating a wonderful occasion and they deserved to have this moment unsullied by my personal struggles. They deserved a photographer that was focused and cared about their event with the same passion as the event of every client before them. As I’m writing this, I realize my lofty goals were impossible to achieve but I didn’t know that at the time.
Tragedy changes us in mysterious ways. During my mom’s illness I was blessed with a clarity most never experience. It was as if I had superpowers. I could walk in a room and sense everyone’s motivation. I could tell why they were there, what their goals were and feel their insecurities. My day to day actions were a model of balance. I knew what had to be done in my business and in my life to maintain this semblance of normalcy I had created. I made decisions quickly, then immediately executed them. If something did not serve me, it was let go. In a way, it simplified my life and made my business more efficient. I felt I could handle anything, and I did. It was the urgency of the situation that propelled me onward.
Right now, I am struggling mightily with my motivation. Apparently I thrive during times of crisis - which is probably why I’m so relaxed on wedding days and able to handle the stress that comes along with my job. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find my motivation during this period of grief. Since my Mom’s death, I have been asking myself why I continue with my career. What am I building my business for? Why am I working on WeddingIQ? Is all of this allowing me to live the life I want?
Right now most of the answers elude me or are so clouded by emotions that I can’t make logical sense of them. Perhaps it’s just time, or distance, that are required to gain perspective. I read somewhere that you’re not supposed to make any major decisions the year following the death of a close loved one. I’m going to have to say it’s bit too late for that. I’m about three major decisions in.
I guess to answer my own question, I continue because to be still is not thriving. I don’t want to be paralyzed with indecision. Even if I’m moving in the wrong direction, I’ve made a choice and can always alter my course. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a couple months, maybe even next week. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve asked myself these questions. My career has taken several turns over the years that have lead me down greater and more fulfilling paths. It has never been easy, especially when re-evaluating my entire life, but I believe it is necessary to reach my true potential. I’m in the midst of change right now so I think I’ll give myself permission to be, well, unmotivated.