Use Science To Boost Your Motivation

Not feeling motivated at work or at home? You’re not alone. But science can help.


Following years of isolation and lockdown, we are in the midst of a motivation crisis, says Ayelet Fishbach, professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago. But there are scientific ways to boost motivation.

To boost motivation in yourself and others, focus on improving your goal-setting skills. That includes using precise time frames to get things done, monitoring your progress and taking advantage of social support.

“Between the health crisis, the economic challenges, and the great resignation, staying motivated and motivating those around us is harder now than ever,” she said. “Motivation science is here to help.”

Set Goals Instead Of Chores To Boost Motivation

The goals that you set need to identify a desired end state instead of the means to get there, said Fishbach, author of “Get It Done: Surprising Lessons From The Science of Motivation.”

Goals should have an easy and intuitive answer for the question of “why this is useful?” she adds. ” ‘How do I do it’ is secondary.”

People stick to goals they enjoy pursuing. For example, what predicts adherence to an exercising routine isn’t the importance of staying fit, but rather how much a person enjoys their exercising routine.

“If you want to increase engagement, find the immediately rewarding path,” Fishbach said.

Set Optimistic Targets To Boost Motivation

Challenge yourself with optimistic but realistic targets, Fishbach says.

Set goals you’ll likely achieve at least 80% of the time. Progress increases motivation, she said. Further, put a time frame on your goal or goals for completion.

Have Short Middles To Boost Motivation

There’s a decline in motivation midway through pursuing a goal, Fishbach said.

Most people are enthusiastic at first. And if they ever get to the last part of the program, they’ll enthusiastically complete it, she says. “But we lose steam in the middle,” she said.

The solution Fishbach suggests: create weekly or monthly sub-goals on the way to meet your quarterly or annually goals.

Keep a written record of your progress. “Look back at what you have accomplished,” Fishbach wrote. “Does that mental exercise help you regain your goal commitment?”

Leverage Social Support To Boost Motivation

Most people believe that the person who is the best performer is also the best role model for whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. But that’s not always the case, Fishbach notes.

“The best role model is the person who wants to succeed and even more important, the one who wants you to succeed,” she said. “At work, that would be the manager who has high ambitions for themselves and for their team, rather than (for) one individual.”

Ask For Insights To Boost Motivation In Others

Customize incentives and therefore motivation.

“Simply ask employees what they find motivating,” said Mark Livingston, CEO and managing partner of Infosys Consulting.

“With so many employees at risk for leaving in one of the most employee-friendly job markets of all time,” he said, “offering extra incentives is a smart investment in future success.”

Create Healthy Competition

Consider hosting both professional and personal competitions to keep your teams motivated.

Livingston says professional competitions could be sales goals or innovation challenges. Personal ones could be health and wellness challenges. And then put thought into what kinds of rewards you might offer people who choose to participate.

Prioritize Personal Development And Training

People are reassessing their priorities and what matters to them professionally and personally, Livingston said. Urging people to learn new skills, in itself, is a boost to motivation.

Make learning an organizational imperative. Launch programs that meet the professional and personal goals of your employees. That’s motivating. “Working toward defined goals with opportunities to achieve and succeed are key markers for motivation,” he said.

Set The Example

There is a line of thought, often attributed to Greek philosopher Aristotle, that we become what we repeatedly do.

“Through attitude, behaviors and actions, leaders can impact their employees” and boost motivation, Livingston said. “Motivation can be contagious.”


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