Stay Motivated & Tackle Goals With These Tips

March 6, 2023
How To Stay Motivated And Achieve Goals

Let’s face it: we’d all like to change at least one thing about our lives. Whether we want to eat a more nutrient-rich diet, scale up our fitness routine, or focus more on our personal relationships, we likely have some sort of goal that we want to achieve. Unfortunately, only 20 percent of people actually set goals – and of that group, only 30 percent achieve their goals.

So, what separates those who achieve their goals from everyone else? The ability to stay motivated. Like good moods and bad moods, motivation comes and goes. It’s not a reliable, ever-present force. This means that we have to learn how to work with motivation when it’s present, and how to create it when it isn’t.

Let’s explore some of the best ways to harness motivation and use it to achieve goals.

What is Motivation?

In the Cambridge Dictionary, motivation is defined as “willingness to do something, or something that causes such willingness.” It’s a two-sided concept, then: both the desire to do something (willingness) and the thing that creates that desire (cause).

Here are a few examples of where this definition can play out in real life:

  • A student who is unmotivated to study may be motivated by the prospect of a better future. If they aren’t compelled by the material, the idea of getting a good job and making a lot of money may be enough to get them to open their books.
  • An athlete who feels unmotivated to train may be motivated by the idea of winning a trophy or medal. The training hurts in the short term. It’s the long-term goal that keeps them going.
  • A salesperson who is struggling to make quotas may be motivated by the idea of a bonus or commission. The daily grind of making calls and meeting clients can be draining, but the promise of a financial reward at the end of the month is enough to keep them going.

In each case, there’s something that the individual wants (a good grade, winning a trophy, making money) and they’re using motivation to help them get it. Sometimes, however, these delayed gratification scenarios don’t work.

The student may never get that good grade, the athlete may never win that trophy, and the salesperson may never make their quota.

When this happens, it’s important to have additional sources of motivation to fall back on.

Why is Motivation Important?

Let’s think back to the definition of motivation: “willingness to do something, or something that causes such willingness.” Without motivation, no action would ever be taken. That’s why it is such an important concept, both in our personal lives and in the business world.

In order to achieve any goal, we need to take action. And in order to take action, we need motivation. It’s the engine that propels us forward and helps us make progress.

It is equally crucial to recognize and understand the sources of our motivation. If you don’t know what motivates you, there’s no way to sustain it over the long term. Recognizing what drives you – and keeping that at the forefront of your mind – is essential to taking action and achieving goals.

Types of Motivations

As mentioned earlier, certain motivators may not always work. That’s because there are different types of motivation, and what works for one person may not work for another.

1. External Motivators

We are all influenced by outside forces that compel us to act. For instance:

  • Cold weather motivates us to put on a coat.
  • A hungry stomach motivates us to eat.
  • A need for money motivates us to get a job and attend each day.

In each case, we’re responding to something that is happening outside of us. Along the lines of self-improvement, common examples of external motivators include:

  • The approval of others (e.g., wanting to be liked, wanting to impress), which often compels us to improve our appearance or take on new challenges.
  • A sense of competition (e.g., wanting to be the best, wanting to one-up others), which drives us to work harder and achieve more.
  • A desire for rewards (e.g., money, prizes, recognition), which can spur us to accomplish goals that we may not have otherwise attempted.

External motivators are often very effective in the short term. They can give us the initial push we need to take action. However, they are not always sustainable over the long term. Studies have found that external motivators become less effective once the goal or prize has been achieved.

This doesn’t mean that external motivators are always bad. They can be very helpful in getting us started, but it’s important to supplement them with other types of motivation if we want to maintain our progress.

2. Internal Motivators

Internal motivators come from within us. They are not externally imposed. Because of this, they tend to be more sustainable over the long term. Internal motivators are generally split into two categories: enjoyment and mastery.

The former is any motivator that is driven by the simple pleasure of doing something. We are motivated to do it because we enjoy it and get satisfaction from it. The latter, mastery, is the desire to improve our skills and knowledge. People who are motivated by mastery are often more interested in the process than the outcome.

When an activity has internal or intrinsic motivation attached to it, it’s best not to add an external motivator on top of it. Doing so can actually decrease our intrinsic motivation and enjoyment of the activity – it feels like a chore instead of a fun hobby.

3. Emotional Motivators

Emotions can fall under both external and internal motivators, depending on their source. However, they warrant their own category because they can be such a powerful force in our lives.

Certain emotions like fear, anger, and anxiety can spur us to take action in order to make the feeling go away. A bear running toward you, mouth gaping and eyes wide, is a perfect example of this. The fear that you feel at that moment is an external motivator. It’s coming from the bear, and it causes you to act in fight or flight mode.

On the other hand, some emotions like happiness, love, and pride are internal motivators. They originate from within us and often lead us to take care of ourselves or others. The feeling of elation after completing a project is an example of this. It’s an internal motivator that encourages us to keep going even when the going gets tough.

4. Social Motivators

Socially-derived motivators tend to be mostly external. Why? Because socialization involves other people. We don’t socialize from within ourselves. That being said, social motivators can come in the form of both positive and negative reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement is when we are motivated to avoid something unpleasant. For instance, someone who doesn’t want to be ridiculed by their peers may be more likely to study for a test instead of going out partying the night before. The fear of embarrassment is an external motivator that compels us to take action.

Then we have positive reinforcement, which is when we are motivated by the prospect of a pleasant social outcome. You might push past your introversion to make new friends, for instance, because you want to broaden your social circle. The hope of making connections and having fun is an external motivator that encourages us to take risks.

5. Financial Motivators

We’ve added financial motivators as its own category because finances are so enmeshed with our survival. Our monetary status holds more weight than our educational achievements, for instance. A lot of our actions are driven by the simple desire to earn more money because we know it directly impacts our quality of life.

While financial motivators are mostly external, they can also be internalized to some extent. Money is a means to an end; it’s not always the end goal itself. We may work long hours because we want to provide a comfortable life for our families, not just because we want more money.

HBR found that monetary loss is a particularly strong motivator. In a study, participants reached their goal 50 percent more often when compelled by financial loss rather than gain.

Tips for Staying Motivated

Tips For How To Stay Motivated Focus On Goals

Struggling to keep yourself motivated? Here are a few tips from our community to help keep you on track.

Leave Time To Practice

There’s nothing more discouraging than working at a new hobby or discipline every day, with no real sign of improvement. We often fail to retain knowledge and skill progression because our exposure to the task isn’t long enough to solidify the neural pathways needed for retention.

Try breaking up your study sessions into manageable chunks, and allow yourself some time afterward to practice what you’ve learned in a low-pressure environment. For instance, if you’re trying to learn a new coding language, spend 20 minutes studying the rules and protocols, then another 20 applying it to a project. This will help embed the material better, and make it more likely that you’ll retain what you’ve learned.

How does this influence motivation? It gives you the external motivator of seeing your own progress, which can help spur you on to further study.

Look Back At All You’ve Accomplished

Maybe you’re feeling down because you’re not where you want to be yet. It’s easy to focus on all the things we haven’t accomplished and forget about everything we have.

Take some time every now and then to sit down and reflect on all that you’ve done. Write out a list of your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. This could be anything from making it through a tough year at school to quitting smoking. Seeing everything you’ve already achieved can give you the boost you need to keep going.

Remember Why You Decided To Learn The Program

What was your goal when you first started learning something new (in this case, programming?) Did you want to make websites for a living? Develop video games? Be able to code because it’s a useful skill?

When we get caught up in the minutiae of learning, the original goal can get lost. It’s important to remind yourself every now and then of why you’re learning in the first place, or you run the risk of getting bogged down and frustrated.

Write down all of the motivators involved in your decision to start learning to code, and if it helps, sort them into the different types of motivation we discussed earlier. This can help you when you’re feeling lost, and give you a clear path to follow as you move forward.

Be Open To Learning New Things

Learning to code isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the steepest learning curves you can attempt. Coding languages are vast and varied, with different frameworks and methodologies. There’s always something new to learn.

Here is your challenge: embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. Be open to new concepts and ideas, even if they seem daunting at first. This is the only way you’re going to improve.

For example, don’t lock yourself into learning just one coding language at a time. You might need to learn multiple languages to be able to complete the projects you have in mind. Don’t be afraid of this – the more languages you learn, the better equipped you’ll be to tackle anything that comes your way.

Try Doing A Small Amount Every Day

Are you someone motivated by intrinsic rewards? Perhaps you are driven by the desire to attain as much knowledge as possible. If that’s the case, you will likely be tempted to rush your studies and pack as much information into your brain as possible.

This isn’t always the best approach, though. You might find that you burn out quickly and become overwhelmed by everything you need to learn. Instead of trying to do a lot at once, try breaking things down into manageable chunks and doing a little bit every day. Dedicate 15 minutes to your studies, and make sure you take breaks in between to give your mind a rest.

Take A Break

Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you need to be working all the time in order to make progress. That’s just not true. In fact, you might find that taking a break can help improve your focus and concentration when you sit down to work again.

Take some time for yourself every now and then, even if it’s just 10 minutes to relax and recharge. Step away from your work, and clear your mind. This will help prevent burnout and keep you fresh for when you need to buckle down and focus.

Shift Your Focus

An unfortunate reality of learning to code is that you can’t always see the fruits of your labor – at least, not for a while. This can be discouraging, and make it hard to stay motivated.

Why not shift to other topics alongside your coding studies? There are plenty of skills that complement coding nicely, such as design and user experience. You’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you complete projects, and the knowledge you gain will likely help with your coding studies as well.

And who knows – you might even find that you enjoy these other topics more than coding itself.

If You Are Not Really Feeling It…

That’s okay. We will all go through life phases in which no motivator seems to work. The best thing you can do in these moments is to simply take a break and come back to your studies later. Alternatively, reach out to a potential mentor or accountability partner – someone who can help you stay on track and motivated.

Not Giving Up

Did you know that 45 million Americans attempt to diet every year? And yet, a large percentage of adults still have obesity. It’s not easy to stick to your goals and see them through to the end. It might be one of the hardest things you ever have to do.

The key is not to give up. Understand that relapses are normal and that you can get back on track after a slip-up. What matters is that you don’t give up altogether. Keep moving towards your goal, even if it’s slow going at times.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Ulysses Pact?

A Ulysses Pact is an agreement that you make with yourself to not give up on your goals, no matter how hard things get. It’s named after the Greek hero Ulysses, who faced many challenges on his journey home from Troy – including being tempted by the sirens’ song.

What is Chunking?

Chunking is a technique that can help you break down large goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. This can make the goal seem less daunting, and increase your chances of success.

What is the motivation of Chunking?

The motivation behind chunking is our self-efficiency. We feel more capable of completing the task at hand because it is smaller and more manageable.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the willingness and desire to do something, or anything that creates that willingness and desire.

What is positive reinforcement?

Unlike negative reinforcement, which removes an unpleasant condition after a desired behavior is displayed, positive reinforcement adds a pleasant condition after a desired behavior is displayed. The goal of positive reinforcement is to increase the likelihood of the desired behavior being repeated.

What is artificial reinforcement?

We can build positive reinforcement into our lives using what is called an “artificial reinforcer.” This is simply a reward that we give ourselves after completing a desired behavior.

How do I keep my motivation up?

This is different for everyone, but some suggestions include setting goals, focusing on positive reinforcement, breaking down large goals into smaller ones (chunking), and finding a mentor or accountability partner.

How do I keep motivated?

To maintain motivation, it is important to set goals and reward yourself for completing desired behaviors. Additionally, focusing on positive reinforcement, breaking down large goals into smaller ones (chunking), and finding a mentor or accountability partner can help.

What is the drive to achieve?

The drive to achieve is the inner motivation that compels us to accomplish our goals. It’s what keeps us going when things get tough, and it’s an essential part of success.

How do I keep track of my goals?

You can use a diary or app to keep track of your goals. Consider finding an accountability partner to help you stay on track, too.

What can I do?

It’s easy to assume there are things you’ll never be able to do – and in reality, there are some things that may always be out of reach. But don’t limit yourself before you’ve even tried. Say “I can try” instead of “I can’t.”

How to keep track of my achievable goals?

Track your goals using pen and paper, your computer, or an app. Let someone else know about your goals so they can help you stay accountable.

What do I want to achieve?

Always clarify your goals before taking action. This helps you stay focused and motivated to achieve them. Make a list of your goals, and then narrow it down to the most important ones.

What can I do to improve my mental health?

It’s important to have good mental health alongside physical health. To improve your mental health, you can: get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, spend time outside in nature, take breaks when needed, and find ways to relax and de-stress. You can also talk to a therapist if you’re struggling with your mental health.

Final Thoughts

Staying motivated has been a struggle for humans since the beginning of time. It is the engine that drives us to achieve our goals. The better we are at staying motivated, the more likely we are to succeed.

There are a number of techniques that can help us stay motivated – like setting goals, focusing on positive reinforcement, breaking down large goals into smaller ones (chunking), and finding a mentor or accountability partner.

The most important thing is to find what works for you and to keep at it. Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how hard things get. Remember, the only way to fail is to quit.

Written By

The Brooks Group

The Brooks Group teaches straightforward, actionable sales training skills to sales managers and their teams. Our IMPACT Selling® Sales Training Program has been taught to over one million sales professionals nation-wide, and we've been recognized as one of the top sales training companies annually since 2010. We also provide various behavioral and selling assessments to aide sales managers making hiring or management decisions.
The Brooks Group teaches straightforward, actionable sales training skills to sales managers and their teams. Our IMPACT Selling® Sales Training Program has been taught to over one million sales professionals nation-wide, and we've been recognized as one of the top sales training companies annually since 2010. We also provide various behavioral and selling assessments to aide sales managers making hiring or management decisions.

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