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See below for an excerpt from Chapter Eight of SOLD: Every Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Building a Profitable Business by David Greene. Order it now on the BiggerPockets Bookstore!
When I was young, I was absolutely in love with the game of basketball. I fantasized about it, studied it, and practiced it. I desperately wanted to be as good a player as possible. But while my understanding of the game grew by leaps and bounds, my skills did not. Excellence in basketball, as with everything else in life, depends on two things: your knowledge and your ability to apply that knowledge. My vertical leap, speed, and size were all better than average but not nearly good enough to play professionally. I had the knowledge, but my physical limitations prevented me from applying it.
As a young man, this broke my heart. As a middle-aged man, I’ve come to see it as a blessing. Because I did not achieve what I wanted to with basketball, I became extremely motivated to seek success in other endeavors—like real estate. The biggest difference between real estate and basketball is that what determines your ability to apply your knowledge is not a physical characteristic but a mental one—that is, your mindset.
Just as your physical traits dictate your ceiling in sports, your mental traits will dictate how much success you’re capable of achieving in sales. Real estate agents with a strong mindset—even if they have less experience, less knowledge, and less natural sales ability—will absolutely outperform those with a weaker mindset.
You have the power to become as successful as you want in real estate sales. Nobody can stand in your way except you, thanks to the influence of self-limiting beliefs. We all have them: pessimism, fear, complacency. Those are the things that contribute to a weak mindset and keep you from realizing your full potential. Attributes such as motivation, focus, confidence, and momentum, on the other hand, contribute to a strong mindset. And when it comes to being successful, nothing matters more than having a strong mindset.
This chapter will focus on how to develop these positive attributes so that, just like an Olympic athlete, you can perform at your highest possible level. Also like an elite athlete, you will inspire those around you to give their best and reach new levels of success.
The most important component of a powerful mindset is motivation. Motivation can refer to two things: the reasons we act in a certain way and our willingness to act. The first relates to our desire to do something; the second to how powerful that desire is. If you want to improve your motivation, you need to focus on both. What is it that drives you, and how powerfully are you driven? As we dig deeper into our own psyches, we find that the two are often related.
Understanding what motivates your clients is huge. Understanding what motivates you is even bigger. Most top-level businesspeople will tell you that the critical deciding factor in someone’s success is their level of personal motivation. People are capable of incredible feats when they want something badly enough. They are also capable of squandering all their gifts and hiding from the harsh realities of the world. The same person who is capable of becoming a neurosurgeon can end up spending a lifetime eating junk food on the couch if they aren’t motivated.
Entire libraries on motivation already exist, so I’m not going to delve too deeply here. But one thing I’ve learned about motivation is this: The goal is not “get” more of it but to remove the barriers blocking the motivation you already have. Are you afraid of success because you don’t think you deserve it? Are you afraid of failure, so you never really try? Do you secretly think you’re just not smart enough to be an elite real estate agent? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us struggle with doubts like these, often without even realizing it.
If you dig deep enough, you’ll find that the person holding you back is you. You do have motivation. It’s just buried underneath something else that prevents you from feeling and experiencing it. The single most important thing you can do to improve your motivation is to determine your so-called Big Why. Understanding what truly matters to you and the reason behind it is key to unlocking your personal motivation.
How do you know whether lack of motivation is your problem? You’re likely short on motivation if:
- You aren’t already succeeding
- The thought of success is scary or intimidating to you
- You think negative thoughts when someone says, “You can do it!”
- You’re not doing the work of lead generation
- Those who work for you are not excited about their role and future opportunities
- Your fears are louder than your dreams
- Your leads are not consistently moving down your sales funnel
- You’re not excited about your next client or opportunity
- People can’t hear excitement in your voice
- You’re not looking for a way around a problem but are focusing on the enormity of the problem
- You aren’t making meaningful progress every single day
If you want to be a successful agent, you must learn to harness the power of motivation and make it serve you. Here are some of the ways we fail to harness motivation, or even worse, push it away.
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Not Capitalizing on Momentum
Momentum has a huge impact on motivation. Finding yourself in a flow state, in which everything comes easily, often results from momentum. When you have momentum and everything seems easy, staying motivated is easier too. How can you capitalize on momentum? When you get a buyer into contract, share that story with other leads so they’ll be more likely to go into contract themselves. When you negotiate a great deal for a seller, tell all their neighbors about it so they’ll reach out to you when they want to sell. Don’t waste your momentum. Use it to your advantage so you can stay motivated!
Not Rewarding Yourself
When you achieve a victory, like selling a house or taking a new listing, you’ve got to make the most out of the positive feelings that result. Your brain has a natural reward system, and it will release dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin to make you feel really good about your achievement. If you’re afraid to feel too good because you don’t want to get too high and then fail, you’ll subconsciously inhibit these chemicals from being released and prevent yourself from enjoying your victory. This robs you of the reward that your inner sense of motivation is chasing.
Go out to dinner to celebrate closings. Let your office staff cheer for you. Call your closest friends and let them build you up—they want to hear about your wins, and you’ll enjoy their support when they congratulate you. Get acquainted with feeling good when you do the things you’re supposed to—like making your daily calls or contacts. Enjoy the journey, and you’ll find yourself setting bigger and bigger goals—and achieving them.
Burnout will kill motivation faster than anything else. Many people think they can work forever without taking a day off or going on vacation. I used to be one of them, but I learned this was a mistake. When you make it a priority to recharge your batteries, even if it means taking time away from work, you’ll end up being more effective, productive, and successful.
Remember that you are not a machine but a human being. Part of being human is that we work in cycles: waking and sleeping, exercising and resting, working and playing. If we want to be successful on one side of the cycle, we need to spend time on the opposite end as well. A well-rested, well-balanced version of yourself will be much more motivated than a worn-out, miserable one. Your clients and leads can recognize which version of you they’re encountering more than you think.
Engaging in Negative Self-Talk
People who engage in negative self-talk are often unaware they do. Having a poor self-image is like seeing your reflection in a dirty mirror—you believe this is how you look and don’t realize it’s not how everyone else sees you. Negative self-talk prevents you from feeling bold, confident, and worthy. In fact, it kills motivation! If you do make progress that gets you excited and confident, negative self-talk douses your positive feelings before they can grow.
The best way to overcome this is to get real with yourself about the fact that it’s going on, then turn to people you know and trust and ask for their objective opinion of you. Doing that takes faith—not to mention—courage. It may not be easy, but it’s important. If you want to stay motivated, you must silence your inner critic by getting clear on your strengths and focusing on the unique value you bring to your clients as you go about your work.
Not Breaking Goals into Bite-Sized Chunks
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of huge goals. To overcome this, break them down into smaller ones. In an article on Inc.com, former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf and host of the podcast, Cleared Hot, shared how he survived BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training. This training is considered one of the toughest rites of passage out there, and few complete it successfully. Andy says the secret to overcoming the rigorous physical and mental challenges is to start thinking small:
There’s two ways you can look at BUD/S. It’s 180 days long. Or you can look at it as a sunrise and a sunset, 180 times. …The advice I was given was, ‘Don’t look at Hell Week as a five-day pipeline. Just make it to your next meal, because they have to feed you every six hours.’ So if I can stack six hours on six hours on six hours, and just focus on getting to the next meal…it doesn’t matter how much I’m in pain, doesn’t matter how cold I am…if I can just get to the next meal, get a mental reprieve and mental reset…then I can go on.
In other words, those who can focus on what is right in front of them and devote all their resources to that are much more likely to be successful than those who are overwhelmed by the task as a whole and its seemingly impossible requirements.
Instead of focusing on selling one hundred homes a year, focus on making twenty contacts a day. You don’t need to think about all twenty conversations at once. You just need to concentrate on the one you are having now. You don’t need to convince someone to sell their home. You just need to win them over so that when they are ready to sell, they choose you to represent them. Learning to focus on the small tasks instead of the big goal can keep your motivation and confidence level high, regardless of the situation you’re in.
Not Setting Reasonable Milestones
To succeed at focusing small, keep your expectations reasonable and your bite-sized chunks achievable. Not only will your mind tackle each smaller goal more effectively, but your motivation will get a natural boost as you reach each milestone along the way to achieving your ultimate goal. We respond well to perceived progress; setting unreasonable milestones for yourself will rob you of that satisfaction.
Not Writing Down Your Goals
When we write down our goals and look at them frequently, we train our brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) to recognize opportunities and call them to our attention more often. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to get your subconscious working for you, not against you. Writing down your goals will remind you of your priorities and keep you moving forward toward achieving them. And—yes, you guessed it—perceived progress increases motivation.
Not Tracking Your Progress
If you aren’t keeping track of the progress you’re making, you can’t enjoy making it! Productivity coaches know this, and that’s why they insist their clients track their progress. There’s a big difference between making as many phone calls as you can and simply trusting that you made at least twenty versus writing down the name of each person you talk to and checking a box that says, “I talked to twenty people today.”
The first method will get the contacts made but leave you without satisfaction. The second will give you a sense of accomplishment. When you’re feeling good about yourself, it’s that much easier to make the next day’s calls. Why rob yourself of this positive reinforcement? Keep daily records of your small goals and continue achieving them to keep yourself motivated.
When we set excessively high standards for ourselves, we face massive anxiety every time we have to undertake a new task. That’s because the fear of failure weighs on our subconscious. The result? Waning motivation that takes the form of procrastination.
The problem with procrastination is that it gets worse the longer it goes on. If it was hard to start that big undertaking yesterday, it will be even more difficult today, when you’re one day further behind. Tomorrow will be even worse. To avoid this vicious cycle, start with lowering your expectations of yourself. Perfection is the enemy of progress. It stops you from building momentum, prevents you from hitting small milestones, and robs you of the joy hitting those milestones.
Your mind is designed to work a certain way, looking for natural rewards and releases to keep it motivated and hungry for better results. It’s not wired for perfection, and your subconscious knows that you are not perfect and never will be. This creates an uphill climb for perfectionists, who think their high standards will prevent them from making mistakes. In fact, those high standards actually prevent them from making progress. Be kind to yourself and learn to take joy in becoming better, not completely perfect.
 Jeff Haden, “Why Thinking Small Is Your Best Defense in Tough Situations,” April 1, 2020, accessed at https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/feel-overwhelmed-overworked-out-of-answers-a-navy-seal-says-1-literally-small-decision-separates-successful-people-from-all-rest.html.