Motivational Tricks for New Year’s resolutions

This article by Ayelet Fishbach in the Harvard Business Review is giving us advice right in time to be used on our New Year’s resolutions! He mentions 4 strategies to motivate yourself:


  1. Design Goals, not chores: chores are those tasks that you don’t enjoy though you may like the outcome (the very explicit example given in the article is undergoing chemotherapy!!). She suggests to choose tasks with intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic one, that is the ones that motivate you right when doing it, instead of having to translate the task into a further away goal (like on the chemotherapy example) to remember you why you are doing it. But also motivation works at its best when goals at tangible. 

    “Abstract ambitions—such as “doing your best”—are usually much less effective than something concrete, such as bringing in 10 new customers a month or walking 10,000 steps a day. As a first general rule, then, any objectives you set for yourself or agree to should be specific.”Here is how to express those goals in a SMART way:

  2.  Find effective rewards: If there is no way you find an intrinsic task to reach your goal, if there is no attractive aspect of the task at hand ;-( then you could improve your motivation by offering you a treat.“[..]

    it can be helpful to create external motivators for yourself over the short- to-medium term[..]. You might promise yourself a vacation for finishing a project or buy yourself a gift for losing weight. But be careful to avoid perverse incentives.”
    “Another common trap is to choose incentives that undermine the goal you’ve reached. If a dieter’s prize for losing weight is to eat pizza and cake, he’s likely to undo some of his hard work and reestablish bad habits. If the reward for excelling at work one week is to allow yourself to slack off the next, you could diminish the positive impression you’ve made. Research on what psychologists call balancing shows that goal achievement sometimes licenses people to give in to temptation—which sets them back.”Other kind of external rewards that work quite well are the ones that count on/talk to/ your “loss aversion” bias:
    “Online services such as allow users to choose a goal, like “I want to quit smoking,” and then commit to a loss if they don’t achieve it: They have to donate money to an organization or a political party that they despise, for example.”

  3. Sustain progress: don’t slow down after the first “burst of motivation”. There are many tricks that can be used, like:
    “If you break your goal into smaller subgoals—say, weekly instead of quarterly sales targets—there’s less time to succumb to that pesky slump.[…]
    Another mental trick involves focusing on what you’ve already done up to the midpoint of a task and then turning your attention to what you have left to do. My research has found that this shift in perspective can increase motivation.”
  4. Harness the influence of others: This next text really talked to me, did it never happened to you?

    When we witness a colleague speeding through a task that leaves us frustrated, we respond in one of two ways: Either we’re inspired and try to copy that behavior, or we lose motivation on the assumption that we could leave the task to our peer.[…]
    One rule is to never passively watch ambitious, efficient, successful coworkers; there’s too much risk that it will be demotivating. Instead, talk to these peers about what they’re trying to accomplish with their hard work and why they would recommend doing it.[…]
    Listening to what your role models say about their goals can help you find extra inspiration and raise your own sights.”

    Personally I prefer this bit of advice:

    “Interestingly, giving advice rather than asking for it may be an even more effective way to overcome motivational deficits, because it boosts confidence and thereby spurs action.[…] when they [offered their wisdom to others], they laid out concrete plans they could follow themselves, which have been shown to increase drive and achievement. 

So here we are, a little bit more in control of the result of our next New Year’s resolutions. Don’t you think so?  You’ll tell me about it in 2019! 😉


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