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How do you find the motivation to work on your goals? More importantly, how do you sustain motivation over time?
The road to your goals can be long and arduous. Furthermore, when you’re working towards an ambitious goal, it’s all too easy to become so consumed by the daily grind that you lose motivation to keep going.
In this article, you’ll learn about the psychology of goal motivation and how you can keep it up despite the obstacles that come up on your way.
The Psychology of Goal Motivation
The main challenge with keeping up the motivation to achieve your goals is that motivation comes in waves: It ebbs and flows on large and small timescales. Something that feels like no big deal when you’re surfing the motivation wave can become insurmountable when you’re wallowing in the trough. Motivation can vary:
- Daily—Willpower is known to be highest in the morning.
- Seasonally—Weight Watchers has consistent peaks and troughs in their signups throughout the year (peaks in January and after Labor Day; troughs in November and December in the lead-up to food-saturated holidays).
- Depending on the circumstances—If you eat lunch at 1 pm, you’ll be more tempted by a pizza at 12:30 than at 1:30.
Furthermore, competing goal motivations can pull us in opposite directions. You may want to reduce the sugar in your diet, but you may also really want that chocolate chip cookie.
TITLE: Tiny Habits
AUTHOR: BJ Fogg
Reconnect With Your “Why”
Because in-the-moment motivation is, by nature, fleeting, you have to find ways to source it on demand. The best way to stimulate your goal motivation is to reconnect with the “why” behind it. To this end, try listing all the reasons you decided to pursue this goal. Write as many reasons as you can think of—having more reasons increases your motivation, persistence, and determination.
For example, if your goal is to lose 30 pounds, one of your reasons might be “to feel comfortable in a swimsuit next summer.” However, you might delay taking action if the summer is still months away. Having other reasons such as “to have more energy,” “to stop taking medication,” and “to improve my sex life” can increase your motivation and get you moving.[su_book__goals!]
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
As you work towards your goals, you’ll sometimes feel tempted to give up or take the easy route. To avoid falling off the track, surround yourself with people who will make sure you stay the course and continue giving everything you have—people who understand what success requires and who will hold you accountable to that standard. This accountability means recognizing where you can put more effort in and pushing you to do so.
Jack Canfield, the author of Success Principles, recommends creating three categories of supporters, each fulfilling a different role:
- Achievement group: Make an achievement group of five or six people and meet with them to discuss how you’ll accomplish your goals. This group can be personal or professional, and can relate or not relate to your field—what’s important is that everybody works towards a shared purpose and provides each other with new perspectives and resources.
- Accountability partner: Have one accountability partner, and meet regularly with them to make sure you’re both doing the work necessary to reach your goals.
- Support team: A support team consists of experts dedicated to helping you excel in your field. Meet with members of your support team regularly in a one-on-one setting.
TITLE: The Success Principles
AUTHOR: Jack Canfield
Celebrate Small Wins
Achieving an ambitious goal makes for a big moment of pride and all the positive emotions that come with accomplishment. However, that big moment of success often never comes to pass without a plan for smaller occasions for pride that will keep you motivated. So, you should build in small reasons to celebrate—or small wins—along the way to your goal. Going about your goal this way serves several purposes:
- Your goal is reframed as a tangible destination, and the small steps give you a sort of roadmap to get there.
- Your small wins are concrete and feel attainable—you’ll be more motivated to put in effort on an achievement that seems within reach.
- Each small win celebrated will provide you with a new burst of pride. In this way, you allow yourself multiple opportunities to feel good about your abilities, instead of feeling frustrated and defeated when you can’t achieve the huge leap between your “here” and “there.”
To learn what small wins might look like for you, let’s take the “I want to lose weight” example. You can decide between two different approaches:
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Buy a too-small pair of “motivation” jeans?
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Go 30 straight days without soda (then, can you do 30 more?)
- Test healthy recipes, find five that even the kids will eat
- Get a group at work together for a daily lunchtime walk, go out for a drink whenever you all hit 10,000 steps for the day
- Log 50 Zumba classes
Of these two approaches, which one gives you more occasions to celebrate? Which one gives you tangible achievements that give you a boost of motivation to keep going? Most importantly—which one would you be more likely to stick with?
TITLE: The Power of Moments
AUTHOR: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Motivation is fleeting and contingent on so many factors, many of which are beyond our control. Furthermore, we often don’t have a clear understanding of our own motivations. This means that unconscious motivations can rise up out of nowhere and sabotage our efforts. To prevent it from happening, you must learn how to sustain your goal motivation to keep pushing, and the above strategies can help you do just that.
If you enjoyed our article about goal motivation, check out the following suggestions for further reading:
Achieving your goals and becoming a better person often seems impossible. However, Brianna Wiest explains that the only thing standing in your way is you—and your self-sabotaging behaviors. Wiest explains that you self-sabotage when you desire a change—in yourself, your lifestyle, your career, and so on—but are too afraid to act. This internal conflict creates a barrier between who you are and who you want to be. In The Mountain Is You, Wiest explains that you can overcome this barrier by identifying, understanding, and eliminating the self-sabotaging behaviors that hold you back.
A cult classic among professional athletes, The Obstacle Is the Way is a guidebook to solving any problem preventing you from achieving ambitious goals. It’s based on the tenets of Stoicism—an ancient Greek philosophy promoting calm rationality in any situation. Ryan Holiday argues that by choosing to view your obstacles in an empowering way, you can turn them into your greatest assets.
Unlimited Power is a classic self-help book that teaches you how to take control of your life. Tony Robbins claims that the key to this is ensuring that your actions, beliefs, and goals all work together and complement each other. He believes that doing so will allow you to harness a level of energy and conviction that would normally be impossible to access, and he says you can use that energy to achieve all of your goals in life.
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