What are the best goals to set in order to motivate yourself?
It’s simple – put no goals to yourself. Instead, focus on creating a system in which you will like things.
So, instead of saying “I’ll write 10 pages each day for a month”, say “I’ll find something which I like doing, like writing, and have lots of fun doing it”.
Quotes on this:
The researchers came to a stunning conclusion – one they didn’t expect and a result that turned conventional wisdom about both education and parenting on its head. The kids who were rewarded for their pretty pictures chose to spend less time drawing than those who weren’t rewarded. The children who weren’t told about the prospect of any prize continued to enjoy drawing, but the children who were given awards seemed reluctant to carry on without the promise of further honours. The initial award reduced the children’s motivation rather than spurring them on to greater heights.
But that’s not all. The investigative team also asked a group of independent art aficionados, who were unaware of the goals of the study, to evaluate the quality of the children’s handiwork. The pictures drawn by the children who were rewarded tended to be rated as less competent, less skilled than those drawn by the unrewarded children. In other words, the rewarded children didn’t just spend less time drawing when given a choice in the matter; they seemed to put less effort into their art too. (source)
A new study by a pair of researchers at the University of Chicago and the Korea Business School shows that this approach has some benefits. Focusing on goals fires up your intentions to engage in the activities that will help you achieve those goals. But there’s a major downside. Stay focused on your goals and you spoil your experience of the activities you’ll need to pursue. In turn, that makes it far more likely that you’ll drop out early and fail to achieve the very goals that you’re so focused on. (source)
Here’s another example. Going to the gym 3-4 times a week is a goal. And it can be a hard one to accomplish for people who don’t enjoy exercise. Exercising 3-4 times a week can feel like punishment – especially if you overdo it because you’re impatient to get results. When you associate discomfort with exercise you inadvertently train yourself to stop doing it. Eventually you will find yourself “too busy” to keep up your 3-4 days of exercise. The real reason will be because it just hurts and you don’t want to do it anymore. And if you do manage to stay with your goal, you use up your limited supply of willpower.
Compare the goal of exercising 3-4 times a week with a system of being active every day at a level that feels good, while continuously learning about the best methods of exercise. Before long your body will be trained, like Pavlov’s dogs, to crave the psychological lift you get from being active every day. It will soon become easier to exercise than to skip it – no willpower required. And your natural inclination for challenge and variety will gently nudge you toward higher levels of daily activity while at the same time you are learning in your spare time how to exercise in the most effective way. That’s a system. (source)