It is hard - some say impossible - to motivate employees. People have to motivate themselves. And sports psychology can offer some helpful tools.

"You can train till the cows come home," sports psychologists say, "but you're not going to run better unless you harness the power of your mind."

In the May issue of Runner's World magazine, psychologist Jerry Lynch offered 10 keys that athletes tell him work the best.

Learn to love your work.

Here are some tips:

*Look for ways to bring more joy into your workday. Break the routine; don't do the same thing the same way every day. Routine breeds boredom, monotony, a mechanical approach to life. Variety fuels motivation, creates excitement and rejuvenates.

*Put your work in perspective. It should not be the only source of joy in your life. Taking your work too seriously can damage your motivation. Being obsessed with it or too self-critical is a sure way to fail.

*Don't be too rigid at work. Discipline is important, but let your passion and fun come through. You can't push 150% all the time; slacken back to 120% on occasion, if you need to do.

Set goals, but don't let them defeat you.

Goals can be opportunities to fail. To use them positively, think of them as points in the distance that simply keep you on track.

Trying to accomplish goals for the sake of achievement alone creates attention and pressure that can prevent you from enjoying the process of getting there. The journey is also important.


Some say visualization is the foundation from which your greatest dreams can be realized. It is a structured process in which you view in your mind's eye positive images that will affect how you do what you do.

The central nervous system doesn't distinguish between real and imagined events, Dr. Lynch says - it responds to all images as if they were real.

For example, if you imagine yourself running strong and relaxed, you will feel confidence, and your performance will reflect that.

Yield to fatigue.

One of the biggest problems in fast-changing organizations with ambitious goals is how to handle the onset of fatigue.

The answer is not to fight it, but to yield to it.

Fighting tiredness causes tension, anxiety, distraction, frustration, and additional fatigue.

Yielding to it doesn't mean giving in or giving up - it simply means accepting it and doing well with it.


When a long-distance runner 64 years of age reached the finish line of a 100-mile run, a reporter asked how someone his age runs 100 miles.

"I don't," the runner replied. "I run one mile 100 times."

Compartmentalize your work; take it one task at a time.

So many of us get overwhelmed when we look at the full spectrum of work ahead of us. We get stressed-out and confused. Prioritization becomes a nightmare.

Instead, force yourself to prioritize; then focus on one task at a time. Each task is eminently do-able if you ignore the sea of tasks to come.

Relax your mind.

It will work better.

Of course mental relaxation is not easy to achieve.

Some people recommend setting aside some time every day to get in a relaxed mind-body state by practicing yoga, meditation, or just trying to relax.

Practice emptying your mind. For some people, including me, that's very hard to do. But it's worth it.

Talk yourself up, not down.

We are the products of everything we put into our minds. Sometimes we set ourselves to fail by not expecting to win. We talk ourselves out of our successes.

Self-criticism sets us up to fail. "It inhibits courage, confidence and concentration and creates tension, anxiety and stress," says Dr. Lynch.

Give yourself positive feedback. Congratulate yourself on the small successes you have every day. That will make you feel better about your ability to compete with the best performers in the business.

Look for excellence, not perfection.

Perfectionism is looking for a way to fail.

It also can be inhibiting, an encouragement to wait for just the right moment, when all the stars are properly aligned and successes assured.

Striving for excellence is rewarding. You can achieve it while recognizing that no one is perfect, but everyone can be a champion.

Stick to it; don't give up.

Tenacity is essential in every line of business.

In a mutual fund, the chance of making a sale is under 30% for the second call - and over 90% for the seventh. But few have the tenacity to make that seventh call.

Be determined; have the courage to take risks and learn from setbacks.

Make work fun.

You should know the answer to the question "Why am I doing this?" that goes beyond compensation.

Work can lift your spirits and bring joy to your life. There are rewards to be found in your everyday working environment and in bonding with your co-workers that you can't find anywhere else.

When you feel that strong connection, you begin to enjoy the working experience - and make yourself a winner.

Ms. Bird is chief operating officer of Roosevelt Financial Group, St. Louis.

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