Get Motivated

Motivation is the desire to act and move toward a goal. It's the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It's the crucial element in setting and attaining one's objectives—and research shows that people can influence their own levels of motivation and self-control.

Motivation might be extrinsic, whereby a person is inspired by outside forces—other people or things that transpire. Motivation might be intrinsic, whereby the inspiration comes from within a person.

High achievers, who have outsized stores of motivation, readily feed their needs of a meaningful life. The needs encompass physiological requirements, social connection, ego, and fulfillment. Physiological needs—sustenance, shelter, safety, physical health—are most important. Also crucial is the need for social connection and acceptance. Ego is another area that requires attention, an individual must have confidence, status, recognition, and respect. And the last is fulfillment, whereby the individual realizes his potential and deepest desires. Motivation plays a big part in every one of these areas.

How to Set Goals

The first step to cultivate motivation and achieve goals is to set those goals effectively. A few concrete strategies can help.

First, think about why you’re setting the goal and what you want to change. How would you like your career to progress? How do you hope your relationship improves? Identifying the importance of the goal can focus attention and strengthen the motivation to accomplish it.

Divide the overarching goal into a series of small, specific, measurable tasks. Rather than aiming for an elusive target, such as losing weight, identify specific actions, such as jogging for 30 minutes every weekday morning. Smaller goals are easier to accomplish, and checking each one off the list may invigorate you to keep going—as will the hit of dopamine delivered after completing a task. Making items measurable also allows you to recognize and celebrate when each one is finished—and then move on to the next step.

Goals should be calibrated at a precise level of difficulty. If the goal is too hard, you might be too intimidated to begin. If the goal is too easy, you might be too bored to finish. The optimal goal is slightly out of reach—it presents a challenge but one that’s attainable. This concept is called the Goldilocks effect: People engage most with material at the precipice of complexity.

Create a plan to accomplish each small goal. Balance a realistic understanding of the challenges ahead with confidence that you can overcome them.


Habit Formation, Career

How to Achieve Goals

Working toward a goal regularly is a central strategy to accomplish it. Whether it’s devoting an hour each morning to a professional pursuit or carving out Sunday afternoons for a home improvement project, plan ahead and make a schedule that you can keep.

Scheduling time will help convert the goal to a routine. Humans are creatures of habit, and once an activity is embedded in daily life, it often remains entrenched.

Changing your location or working style may reignite creativity and motivation. Sleeping well and exercising regularly can also provide necessary energy and clarity.

Record each of your goals and accomplishments. Identify and celebrate the achievement—which may also boost the motivation to continue.

If a goal feels too daunting, break it up into smaller tasks. If you still have trouble, explore the barriers standing in the way. Maybe you need to refine your time frame or resolve an underlying psychological issue. Continuing to pursue your goals, despite the setbacks, can instill a sense of confidence and agency.


Creativity, Attention

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