June will be over before you know it and 2022 will be half gone. It’s time to reflect on your goals, resolutions, and plans for the year and set a course to finish strong.
Look over the goals you set at the beginning of the year. How many are already done? Which others are you making progress on? Are there any you haven’t begun yet, or you’re struggling with?
Effective self-motivation is perhaps the #1 factor distinguishing high-achieving professionals from everyone else. Although motivation is personal to an extent, four strategies work for most people, regardless of what goals they have set for themselves. They include avoiding chore lists, rewarding yourself, sustaining progress, and capitalizing on social influences.
Avoid Chore Lists
One of the most effective “tricks” of goal-setting and staying motivated is focusing on the goal elements that you find enjoyable. Think about how satisfied you’ll feel when you reach a given goal – how it will help you build relationships with colleagues, showcase skills to your boss, create customer value, or result in some type of payment or perk.
Offset any drudgery that makes goal achievement something you may dread with an activity you enjoy. For example, if the goal is to answer all your emails before you stop working each day, it will seem less like a chore if done while you are listening (or even singing along to) your favorite music.
For the same reason, focus on goals that trigger intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic. Intrinsic goals are more likely to succeed than extrinsic ones. Intrinsic motivation is when a goal is the end in itself; the goal is the reason you want to achieve it. Extrinsic motivation is when a goal is a pathway to some other future. For example, working to meet your monthly sales quota because you want to avoid the risk of getting fired is extrinsic motivation.
There’s no shame in rewarding yourself for achieving goals. Did you lose all 10 pounds you planned to lose? Let yourself buy that expensive pair of sunglasses. Have you finally finished that big work project that’s challenged you for several months? A Caribbean vacation may be in order.
Avoid Counter-Productive Rewards
Be careful to avoid what might be called perverse rewards – things that defeat the purpose in whole or part. For example, celebrating that 10-pound weight loss by consuming three slices of cake is probably not a good move. And, rewarding yourself for completing a project faster than scheduled could lead to sacrificing quality for speed, which comes back to bite you later.
Researchers have found that people work harder to qualify for an uncertain reward than they do for a certain one. In other words, they’ll work harder for a 50% chance to win $150 than a 100% chance to win $100. Odd as that may sound, uncertain rewards are perceived as more exciting and challenging.
This concept is often referred to as “gamification” – adding an element of risk. One way to add gamification to your self-reward system is to have two sealed envelopes containing different rewards. When the goal is accomplished, you get the prize in the envelope you choose to open.
Beginning a goal is a time of excitement. Completing one is also. It’s that middle part where we tend to get bogged down and lose motivation. Research has uncovered several successful ways to address this aspect of human nature.
First, break up the goal into a series of smaller, serial goals. A quarterly sales goal becomes a series of monthly or even weekly sales goals. You are shortening that in-the-middle “slump” period.
Second, remember that people naturally become more motivated to achieve a goal the closer they are to reaching its end. Consumers in loyalty programs, for example, who find themselves within a few dollars of the next reward tier, will buy things they didn’t need on that shopping trip to get there faster. In addition to the smaller goals mentioned above, find ways to add additional “achievement levels” to your process.
Capitalize on Social Influences
We, humans, are social creatures. We’re constantly looking to see what others are doing, and as hard as we may try not to let them, the actions of others influence our own regularly.
Use this to your advantage. When you see an efficient, successful colleague achieve a goal, talk to them about what they were trying to accomplish and why they wanted to complete it. When someone “endorses” an action, others are more likely to mimic it than if they merely observed the activity. Listening to what your colleagues say about their goals can help you find your own inspiration.
In the same vein, but from a different angle – giving advice, rather than asking others for it, can be very effective in helping you overcome a lack of motivation. Being able to advise others facing difficulty can boost your confidence and drive you to achieve. Often, advising others will include suggesting plans of action, perhaps ones that you had not thought about before for yourself.
Last but not least, the people who best motivate you to achieve may not be colleagues who have accomplished the same task. They may be those who share the big picture with you, whether of work or of life in general – mentors, family members, or close friends. Wanting to succeed on their behalf can wake up powerful intrinsic incentives within you.
Self-motivation can be one of the most challenging skills to learn. If you struggle to pursue your goals as we reach the mid-point of 2022, remember to tap intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, set up self-rewards, focus on how close you are to the finish, and harness the power of social influence.
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