When we put the problem of motivation under a microscope few things become clear right away. First thing first, it becomes obvious that motivation doesn’t depend entirely upon will power or any other fixation of the mind for that matter. It is rather a complex state which requires couple of factors to be met and motivating yourself is not easy at all.
Psychologists discussed this question to the lengths of exhaustion, and their findings speak of the progress that was made in the field of self-control and the pursuit for self-actualization; Findings that, quite sadly, never prevailed the entirety of self-improvement ideas when the commercial market is being concerned.
It’s seams though that, over time, modern psychology became everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a factual manuscript behind multiple aspects of self-development, and it points in different direction from what the overly saturated market of personal development offers. So I for one cannot be happier.
Seeing the average Jane taking notes from Skinner’s books is inspiring and reassuring towards where personal development is headed at a number of levels. Up until now it was all that knowledge collecting dust, desperately waiting to be accessed. For shame…
Motivation though, as a concept, has been studied even outside the premises of psychology. Marketers, campaign managers, even down to personal coaches, it seems that motivating oneself has become a rare currency.
Doing extensive research about personal development, running this blog and seeing how motivation plays a crucial part in almost everything down to the most rudimentary things that we do on daily basis, I decided, after noticing the effect, to delve deeper into the link between progress and motivation. Either that or I’m sugarcoating the desire to learn something more myself. Anyway…
How to motivate yourself via progress by understanding the background
We all already know about the sweeter carrot and the sharper stick – that’s external motivation. It leans towards either escaping punishment or chasing the reward.
And no matter how effective this practice is for some, research has shown, time and again, that intrinsic motivation beats external by a long shot.
Progress, just to be on the clear, can be marked with external motivational factors. The steady stream of reward or delaying the punishment signals progress in any which way you turn the scenario.
However, progress, although marked with both the stick and the carrot, is predominantly an intrinsic motivational trigger.
Both Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, renowned psychologists, talked about the concept of self-actualization and pointed out that there is this intrinsic need in every one of us for growth and progress when it comes to fulfilling individual potential. And since self-actualization is a long term endeavor, steady progress plays a huge role.
Psychological theories supporting the role of progress in motivating yourself
“When people feel they have made some progress towards a goal then they will become more committed towards continued effort towards achieving the goal.”– This is known as the endowed progress effect.
Translated in vernacular it means that the moment you feel you are closer to achieving your goal, you get encouraged to push harder than usual.
This theory has implications beyond the count. Here are some as for you to get a clear picture of how seriously it is being taken.
- Many marketers advice clients to make special offer or loyalty card coupons where after couple of purchases you are awarded with some sort of prize or discount. This, according to many marketing professors, makes the customer more likely to engage. The perceived progress, they say, is what appeals the most.
- Doctors use this same practice as to make patients perceive even minimal progress, just in order to motivate them to keep doing what they do.
- Video games are constructed so that you motivate yourself by perceiving progress after completing a given task. If progress is not being felt, users are most likely to abandon the game altogether. This usually applies to games with somewhat of a harder “learning curve”.
- Fitness coaches, and even programs when you think about it, tilt towards acknowledging even the tiniest progress, thus making you more likely to stick to the routine. Being a fitness coach for a while I noticed that people will work out beyond pain or whatnot if they see their abs slowly showing on the surface.
As you can see, perceiving progress is the crucial aspect here. Motivating yourself gets harder even if you are making progress but not being able to recognize it. That’s why many of the examples above try to include the sweet carrot in the mix as well.
Some video games go past acknowledging progress and actually reward it; marketers advice for giving customers heads up on the fact that they are making some kind of progress towards the award, discount or whatnot; Fitness coaches remind you to treat yourself with a cookie or take a rest day here and there…
But the thing is that even without the reward motivation is apparent. And the fact that progress is being used in so many instances as an intrinsic motivational trigger is as reassuring as it gets.
So now that we are on the clear that progress alone motivates, the weight falls back equally on being able to perceive it as well as tip the top of the mountain as to create an avalanche.
How to perceive progress and motivate yourself?
- Try to be as objective as you can by either reminiscing from time to time, or even writing a personal journal. Having a set goal in mind, often times we fail to realize that we are getting closer to it by the day, but blinded by the picture of the final result sitting in the back of our head, we are getting frustrated instead. So forget the end of the road; think about the difference between today and yesterday, aiming towards tomorrow.
- Ask people who you trust to be honest with you and tell you whether there is some progress or not. Knowing that progress is real and not subjective is even that much more powerful as being a motivating factor.
- Convince yourself that you are in for the long run and hence progress will be very hard to track on daily basis. And that being the case, you can check and see about your efforts after a week or two. Noticing progress on daily basis is indeed motivating and inspiring, but seeing it in larger chunks- well, that’s something now, isn’t it?
- Never compare yourself with others. It’s probably one of the worst habits that we have. I fell for personal development head over hills, and sometimes still find it hard to detach from this nasty reminder of mediocrity. You, the same as I, have probably already felt the benefits of comparing and even competing with and against your yesterday self. Now that’s where real progress is both made and noticed.
This should be enough, and I will let you to be creative with it. Oh, you can also throw some reward in the mix here and there and it will do just fine. But remember, progress alone has the capacity to motivate.
Making a system and a habit to acknowledge progress and give yourself the credit will change the game when motivating yourself in everything that you do.