Written by Courtney lynch

I recently had a great conversation with a wise leader. She shared how we sometimes expect life to be a continuous state where better consistently unfolds. Instead, she shared, “Life is more like a heart monitor. You have ups and downs.” Then she went on to say, “If we play out that heart monitor analogy, the flat line isn’t ideal; that means you’re dead.”

There’s much that happens in our lives that we wouldn’t choose. Yet many of those same circumstances are things we wouldn’t trade because they allowed us to see what we’re capable of. They made us who we are.

When we feel strong, we seek opportunities to influence outcomes and shape our circumstances more. What’s helpful to prepare for, though, are those times when we aren’t feeling our best. Learning how to find motivation within is a precious skill.

Here are four steps to tap into the inner energy needed for action:

1. Clarify what makes you flinch. Motivation is an emotion. When you realize that, it makes sense that other emotions like fear, worry, and insecurity can instantly deplete it. Finding your flinch begins with identifying an important action you aren’t taking consistently. What are you truly afraid to do? And, most importantly, why?

2. Think worst case. Work hard to recognize the worst thing that could happen if you do something you haven’t done. If you ask for a raise. If you take the first step toward exploring your dream. If you make the cold call to sell your solution. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If that happened, what is the most difficult, painful emotion you would experience?

3. Feel the pain. When you go deep and anticipate the despair of what hurt, failure, or rejection could feel like, the surprising fact is that you’ll often realize the depth of what you can handle. Motivation builds when we understand that taking a chance is less painful than living in fear.

4. Recognize reality. When we don’t follow through on what we seek, it’s often because of emotions we aren’t ready to feel. When we clarify and anticipate the feelings we’re afraid to feel, we become more comfortable with doing what needs to be done. That’s motivation.

My twin daughters are heading off to college next month. Some days they are full of excitement. On other days they are nervous and scared. When they are upset, I also feel unsettled. When I lean into that fear, I realize what it really is. Fear that somehow I haven’t prepared them. I linger longer in that difficult emotion, only to recognize how untrue it is. By sitting in the difficulty, I find the motivation to offer them comfort, support, and guidance. They are ready for day one of college. Just like all of us can become ready to take the steps needed to decide what is ours to do.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through its innovative coaching programs.