As with so many of our behaviors, we find that our brain is a major player in our sense of motivation. In fact, scientists have discovered there are certain portions of the brain – like the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, for instance – that are directly connected to this trait.
It may surprise you, however, to discover how important that motivation is for reaching our goals. Motivation can actually play a bigger role than natural talent when it comes to mastering a skill. That’s because it takes hours upon hours of practice to become a master. In other words, mastery requires a hefty amount of motivation.
The good news is, the more competence you gain, the easier it is to motivate yourself to complete a task. But how do you get to that point? The techniques below are scientifically proven ways to keep motivation levels high while you work toward a goal.
Analyze Your Approach
Our mindset going into a task can influence the outcome. The trick is to think of what we’re doing as a choice. Researchers at the University of Rochester have proven that the level of autonomy a person is given can predict how motivated they are to complete a task. When we feel like we’re being forced to do something, the automatic reaction is to resist. However, if we consider the task we’re working on as something we choose to do, we’re more energetic about getting it done.
Your reason for wanting to reach a goal also matters. Positive reasoning has been shown to keep people more motivated. For example, when you set a fitness goal, identify something positive like getting stronger as your goal instead of trying to lose weight, which a negative connotation.
Consider the Obstacles
Positive thinking is an interesting thing. On the one hand, it can put you in a better mindset for success. But too much positive thinking can cause you to overlook the obstacles you have to overcome. And thinking you’ll smoothly sail through a goal kills drive when you encounter a rough patch.
Imagine a positive outcome but also the obstacles that you’ll have to overcome. This is what’s known as mental contrasting. First think about the goal and visualize yourself achieving it, then think of the obstacles you may have to push past along the way.When you approach these road blocks, you’ll now be more prepared to face them.
Know Your Motivational Factors
Every person has unique motivating factors called rewards. These incentives can be powerful motivators that direct our focus as long as there’s a clear goal.
What are your rewards? Make a list of all the things you have to gain and keep them within eyeshot for motivation.
Celebrating wins is also a form of reward that can increase motivation. On your way to reaching a goal, identify a few key milestones. Whenever a milestone is reached, celebrate it before taking on the next challenge.
Play is another motivating factor that’s excellent for sustained behavioral changes. When we enjoy things, we’re more likely to stick with them. So for goals that take long-term motivation, like exercising, find an enjoyable way to work toward your milestones.
Sleep More& Have a Morning Routine
Willpower and motivation go hand in hand. Once you’re motivated to do something, you need willpower to follow through and get it done. The problem with willpower is that it’s not on will call. It can’t be summoned on command or tapped at a moment’s notice. Willpower is a finite resource that’s easily depleted.
The quickest way to zap your willpower is to skip on sleep. Throughout the day every decision you make depletes willpower a little more. Sleep is a way for our brain to reset and restore. Without it our prefrontal cortex (where willpower develops) doesn’t have the energy it needs to muster up willpower.
Another trick is to establish a morning routine. At the beginning of the week plot out a schedule of what you’ll have for breakfast and what you’ll wear each day. Create a routine in which you run through the same tasks in the same order every morning. That way you can go through the motions and have fewer decisions to make in the morning, starting your day off with less decision fatigue.
Enlist the Help of a Support Squad
Having the support of others is a big motivation booster, especially if they’re people that inspire you to reach your goals. It’s a phenomenon known as social contagion. We automatically want to emulate the people we’re around in order to solidify relationships.
Your support squad can also give you a nudge when you need it and hold you accountable when your motivation wanes. Accountability alone is often enough to motivate a person to meet their goals.
What techniques keep you motivated at work and in life?