5 Motivational Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals

by Jordon Pogrant

Published October 7, 2021


One of the most common hurdles we face when working toward a goal — whether it’s related to productivity, forming a healthy habit, becoming more fit, or just overall happiness — is staying motivated.

It’s easy to chalk it up to self-motivation being a trait that we either have or we don't, but in reality, we all have the opportunity to improve our ability to motivate ourselves. Understanding how motivation works can help us figure out how to best support the habit changes we most want to accomplish.

What is a goal?

A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan, and commit to achieve.

The most effective goals are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound)

How does motivation work?

In simple terms, when our brains recognize a task or activity that meets our internal human needs (a reward), it releases dopamine as a way to encourage that behavior (motivation).

This motivation occurs in two forms: intrinsic and extrinsic.

  • Intrinsic or internal motivation stems from meeting our fundamental human needs with having a sense of purpose, being in control of ourselves and our actions, feeling like we are progressing in life, and having a sense of belonging and social connection. (i.e. going for a run because we love running or cooking a healthy meal because we love to cook)
  • Extrinsic or external motivation usually refers to the use of 'rewards' or avoiding any type of punishment. (i.e. going for a run to lose weight or cooking a healthy meal to limit calorie intake)

Studies have found that while extrinsic motivation can work well for smaller, short-term tasks, they don't work as well as intrinsic motivation for maintaining long-term habit change. The key is knowing which type of motivation works best to get us going and which works best to keep us going so we can harness both to achieve our goals.

Below you’ll find 5 tips to motivate yourself to keep pushing toward your goals!

1. Invest in your goals (literally!)

Studies show that when people make either a public commitment or a financial investment, they are more likely to follow through on that action. Some ways to do this would be to post about your goal on social media, share your goals with people close to you, reach out to a group of individuals on a similar journey to share your goals with, or make a purchase that’s aligned with your goals (like a gym membership).

2. Break your goal down into smaller chunks

Picture a snowball rolling down a hill. It starts small and slow, but as the snowball collects more snow and becomes heavier, eventually momentum takes over and works in its favor. The same can be said of reaching smaller checkpoints toward a larger overall goal! With each small win, we build an internal sense of progression and control, intrinsically helping to build positive momentum and motivating us to keep going.

3. Take your time

When short-term progress isn't meeting your expectations, keep in mind what type of results can come from sustainable changes in the long-term. For example, losing one pound every two weeks might not seem like much, but if the adjustments made to accomplish that are sustainable, that equates to 26 pounds in one year!

4. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal can be a great way to focus on how you feel based on certain choices. Sometimes we focus too much on the end result, and not enough on what other positive impact some of the smaller choices we're making might have. Some ideal times to journal could be after making a small choice that aligns with our goals, reaching a milestone, or even when having a setback. Reflecting back on how you felt after some of those choices can be a great way to motivate yourself to continue building healthier habits.

5. Remember that slip-ups happen

Setbacks are a totally normal part of any journey, and we all have them! Try your best to make a plan ahead of time for some steps to take when these slip-ups happen to help refocus. Being able to build a short list of alternative tasks or activities to try that can help relax and relieve stress can go a long way to getting back to it as quickly as possible after one of those obstacles.

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