We all struggle with maintaining motivation. How can you get excited about a goal and continue to pursue it? How do people convince themselves that the rewards outweigh the things they're giving up?
Turns out, according to science, the secret to maintaining your motivation might actually be more counterintuitive than we originally thought.
When we first embark on a task to achieve a goal--like losing weight, for example--we first focus on the positive outcomes. We'll be able to feel lighter, more confident, and maybe even get new clothes. Yet, what really pushes people to effective, consistent action isn't necessarily focusing on the potentially happy ending that could come from our actions. It's thinking about the potentially negative outcome--not being able to wear clothes that you barely fit into now, not being able to look good for a certain event on your mind--that get us thinking about concrete steps we can take to actually achieving our goals.
When people begin to experience the fear that accompanies a potential failure or disappointment, it actually encourages them to work harder to prevent that than if they were motivated by positive, promotional reasons. The desire not to let someone down--even if that person is yourself--is strong enough to get us on the path to success.
How can we actively prevent gaining weight? By cutting back on this meal, and that one. By working out this day, or more overall during the course of a week. The motivation we feel is derived from a necessity to avoid our own disappointment--our own feeling of having failed to achieve a goal we set for ourselves.
And this kind of thinking can be applied to any goal possible. If we want to be selected for a promotion at year's end, we should work harder now. If we don't think we'll be able to finish a certain assignment on time, we'll be more greatly pressed to in order not to disappoint a supervisor than we would otherwise.
It's possible to achieve anything at all if we think in terms of things we want to avoid. So, allow yourself to be motivated by what you don't want to do, and see how much you accomplish as a result.