Monday, December 31, 2012

Setting Effective Goals #5 - What's in it for you?

If you're going to achieve your goals, it's important to understand how motivation works and when and how rewarding yourself fits into things.

In my corporate training role, I've always defined motivation as: 'the initiation, direction, intensity and duration of discretionary effort focused on a task or tasks'*. Now, that's pretty wordy by anyone's standards, but in fairness, this is usually followed by some in-depth training and discussion, which we can't do here! But it's a definition that's based on some simple ideas that will make sense to you from your own experiences of going for your goals, so I'll focus on those to explain what I mean:

At the heart of this is the discretionary effort bit. The bottom line is that YOU decide what you spend your time and energy on. Yes, these days there are so many demands on your time, but there's always a choice. If you're working on something where your heart's not in it, your effort will inevitably dip or fall away altogether.

When I say 'initiation', I mean what kicked off the effort in the first place? Is the drive to achieve this goal coming from inside of you or outside of you? If it's something you are eager to achieve for your own reasons, you'll put more effort in (the intensity bit), for longer (the duration bit).

Finally, the direction bit - is the effort working towards something (a reward) or away from something (a fear, a negative scenario, a problem of some sort). A lot of people's first reaction is to set their goals around avoiding something or giving something up, but this never delivers the same intensity or duration of effort.

So, boiling down the motivation bit - if you want maximum intensity and duration of effort, make sure your goals are for your own reasons and are towards a reward, rather than away from a fear.

* This is my evolved version of Sage's 1977 definition which was ’the direction and intensity of effort'

Too often, I find that people forget the idea of rewarding themselves. There's a misconception that to achieve great things, you need to live like a monk and to maintain unstinting discipline throughout. Not true! Reward has a really important part to play in making progress, when it's used appropriately.

If you've made your goal specific and measurable, then you will know when you're doing we'll and hitting important milestones. When this happens, you need to celebrate success (either publicly or privately depending on your personality!) and even more so when a goal is fully completed. Your rewards can be be a powerful motivator if they're planned out in advance, along with the goal. Remember that success breeds success. Confidence and energy will come from making progress, so use rewards to get that progress more quickly and you'll be unstoppable!