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What Keeps You Motivated

The Founder’s Zodiac: What Keeps You Motivated, Based on Your Personality Type?


After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we discovered that founder types tend to fall into one of five personality types. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.

I have to admit, Stargazers, that I was unmotivated to write this month’s instalment of Zodiac. It’s been rainy here, we’re still in a pandemic, the kids are—

I’m very good at excuses. 

Staying motivated is a challenge at the best of times. And, well, the past year has decidedly not been “the best of times.” Through experience, we acquire skills, inspiration, devices, and methods that help us keep up the motivation through the tough spots. Recently, we’ve been reaching into that toolkit more often.

The excuses we make could be the symptoms of laziness or procrastination, fear or imposter syndrome. And sometimes, we’re just plain tired.

When we try to summon motivation, occasionally we are met with forces trying to work against us. The excuses we make could be the symptoms of laziness or procrastination, fear or imposter syndrome. And sometimes, we’re just plain tired (parents juggling work and virtual school and business owners navigating rolling lockdowns, we see you).

What motivates us is intensely personal. For entrepreneurs this is even more true. There are fewer sources of external motivation (like a boss’ deadlines or employee payroll) and, as you create a business out of nothing, there’s more reliance on being self-motivated.

How do you summon that self-motivation? How do you stay motivated to work in a pandemic? To stay active when you’re tired? To trudge through the low points? Your personality type may unlock the secrets to what keeps you going. Stick with us to explore ways to stay motivated in work—and life—based on your Founder Sign.

How to stay motivated

To uncover some of the unique ways people find motivation, I asked Twitter: What keeps you motivated? It quickly became clear there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Later, we’ll hone in on each personality type to suggest tailored ideas, but for now, let’s break down motivation into six basic categories, based on the best answers.

1. Access passion 

Some may be motivated by the love of a craft or an interest. If you see yourself as someone who values creative fulfillment at work over status or money, pursue a career or business idea that scratches that itch. Or, take on a passion project on the side. Rune, an engineer at Shopify, stays motivated with “projects around the house to keep me busy and learning away from a computer.”

2. Meet basic needs

Those needs may be money, a secure financial future, supporting family, or self-sufficiency. For Jessica, an independent photographer, money is a big motivator: “As a self-employed person, I need it to keep afloat.”

3. Strive for self-fulfillment or betterment

If you have a passion for learning or personal growth, build opportunities to do so in your everyday routine. Or step away from work periodically to be rejuvenated by learning an unrelated new skill or investing in something you find personally fulfilling. “I’ve finally learned that I should do things that feel good instead of things that look/sound good but make me feel bad,” says Lily on Twitter. For Sara, an editor at Shopify, motivation can be found in “the constant desire to improve or master a skill, be it technical or emotional.” 

I think of ‘me’ as a team, and steps I take today set myself up for a layup and further autonomy in the future!

Liz, marketer, writer, and business owner

4. Be accountable to yourself or others

The approval of others—say, making your kids proud or exceeding your customers’ expectations—can be a powerful motivator. Learn to be accountable to yourself, too. “I think of ‘me’ as a team,” says marketer, writer and business owner Liz, “and steps I take today set myself up for a layup and further autonomy in the future!” For Amanda, the founder of Take My Face Off, a commitment to sustainability is a motivator: “Every day, reading the news leads to worrying about the planet, leads to working on my company.”

5. Seek external motivation

This could be books, podcasts, a favorite meal, a meeting with a mentor, an inspirational quote, or music that uplifts you. For musician and founder Nicole, it’s focusing on “the realization that we have the most incredible technology and abilities to do so many awesome things that previous generations could only dream about.”

6. Be goal-oriented

The promise of reaching a goal—a new sales target, a promotion, fitness goals—can help you stay motivated, especially if you set those goals with a measurable and attainable plan. Shopify’s Ibrahim stays motivated to reach goals by “checking things off a list. It sounds superficial but I love a finished to-do list.”

Motivation for every personality type

How you get—and stay—motivated depends on your personality. Entrepreneurs are driven to do what they do based on a number of different motivations: passion, ideas, wealth, financial stability, and independence. Understanding what drives you is how you can tap into specific tools and tactics to avoid procrastination and stay productive.

👟 Skip to your sign:

Feature sign: The Firestarter

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Firestarter

You can access motivation very easily, Firestarter, because your goals are concrete: money, power, and recognition for your success. But even those can get boring and sap your motivation if you aren’t taking care of your secondary needs. Stay open to new ideas, take risks, and seek change—success means nothing to you if it comes too easily.

How to stay motivated as a Firestarter

Staying motivated for you means keeping things exciting. You’re naturally drawn to the action—go toward it. If you’re really stuck, try these ideas for getting your productivity back on track.

  • Complacency is a killer for you, Firestarter. Shake things up even if everything is going your way. The excitement of chasing a new idea is a strong motivator.
  • You are highly risk tolerant, which allows you to pursue opportunities others may not. Step into the unknown for a little thrill—and a healthy dose of motivation.
  • Of course, a tangible reward will usually do the trick if you’re low on motivation. Reap the rewards of your financial success and invest in yourself—rather than a new business idea—every once in a while.

The Cartographer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Cartographer

Your sense of duty to yourself, to others, and to your work propels you to be a highly productive person. You like things to be done—and done right. Usually that’s enough incentive for you to stick with a project and do the hard work, even if you’re feeling unmotivated. But even Cartographers need a little boost to get unstuck. Remember to find joy in what you do—if you’re no longer passionate about your current situation, it may be time to do the scariest thing you can think of: change.

How to stay motivated as a Cartographer

When you’re feeling stuck, Cartographer, motivation can be found here:

  • Ask yourself, “Does this make me happy?” If the answer is no, it’s possible that you’ll always struggle with motivation. Turn that inclination to please others back toward yourself! If you’re looking to start a business, for example, pick an idea based on something you’re already motivated to do. 
  • Manage your need for security and a sense of control. You are most comfortable within environments that you can manage and that have predictable outcomes. When you can engage in tasks that satisfy those basic needs, you’ll be motivated to follow through.
  • That said, enjoy the process. While you’re motivated by the promise of a job done to your standards, allow yourself to relax and get excited about the work. Don’t sit in the past and dwell on past failures.

The Trailblazer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Trailblazer

Your challenge, Trailblazer, is not in staying motivated, it’s being motivated to see one thing all the way through. Distractions tempt you easily. You are energetic, fuelled by excitement for new ideas—even if you’re already halfway through the execution of another. 

How to stay motivated as a Trailblazer

Staying on track—whether your plan is to start a business or cook more meals at home—may require you to find creative solutions to your motivation challenges.

  • The promise of autonomy is the carrot at the end of the stick for you, Trailblazer. If you’re starting or growing a business with the goal of being your own boss (and making your own rules), remind yourself of this goal for a boost of motivation.
  • As a creative person, you will find motivation in being inspired in the work of others. What’s your medium? Read a book on motivation, listen to a podcast about successful creatives or entrepreneurs, follow aspirational accounts.
  • While tangents and distractions are the enemy of motivation, for Trailblazers, so is monotony. Create opportunities to experience the novelty of something new within the current project. Can you learn a new way to complete a task? Can you automate it or level it up?

The Outsider

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Outsider

You’re motivated most by your basic needs, Outsider: the roof over your head, steady income, and a clear picture of your financial future. For you, being unmotivated—and allowing it to take over—is out of the question because it could impact your bottom line. Where you may struggle with motivation is in tearing yourself away from work and meeting your other needs: social, physical, emotional.

How to stay motivated as an Outsider

Knowing what drives you is important. It will help you reframe other tasks or activities within the context of your central goals. 

  • Money and financial security motivate you to run a tight ship. This may mean that you don’t leave time for your other goals—say keeping up with friends or staying active. Motivate yourself by remembering that taking care of your emotional needs will give you more energy and perspective so you can be your best self at work.
  • Autonomy is important to you, and if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s what gives your pride in what you do. You are self-sufficient and maybe even supporting a family. Step back and enjoy the fruits of what you’ve built single-handedly—it will motivate you to stick to your plans.
  • You may experience fear or anxiety—enemies of motivation—if forced to encounter risk of change in your work. If you’re an entrepreneur, these moments will inevitably crop up. Harness fear and anxiety and use it to your advantage—you can be motivated by the promise of eliminating anxious feelings when you face your fears. You may even be surprised to find a source of motivation in the thrill of the conquer.

The Mountaineer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Mountaineer

You’re a goal-getter at heart, Mountaineer, and there’s no greater motivation for you than that big win. You generally don’t lack sources for staying motivated but you can experience fatigue from constantly moving your own goal post. 

How to stay motivated as a Mountaineer

  • Success is important to you. If you’re feeling a lull in motivation, turn to the inspirational stories of other people who you admire. Their own bumpy paths to success may motivate you to stay the course.
  • Establish clear future goals and post reminders of them around you. If those goals ever become hazy, you could lose motivation. Revisit them to keep them sharp in your mind, and tweak as needed. 
  • You’re a dreamer, Mountaineer, and it helps you visualize your ideal future. Apply that skill to your future self—not just your business goals but what it looks like to be truly happy. Care for your future self in the way that you would a dependent or employee.
  • Learn from failure but don’t sit in it. Give yourself a break after a string of losses to recharge your sense of motivation. You likely learned something in the process—go forth and put that new skill to work!

If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type. 

Illustrations by by Alice Mollon

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