Hack Motivation to Set Better Goals

Mar 27, 2018
Ashley Ann Lawrie

Setting goals is a crucial part of life. It is one of our first questions when a new client walks in the door – “So what are your goals?” and that’s because without those goals there is no map for us to follow. But have you ever wondered why some goals are easier to reach than others? This is because the motivation that keeps us working towards those goals is more complex than simply reading motivational quotes or listening to a good piece of music. Based on Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive, there are 3 forms of motivation – intrinsic, extrinsic, and the biological motivators. In order to set really good goals and ensure you are well equipped to meet those goals it is important to consider all three forms of motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

Dictionary.com defines intrinsic motivation as “the undertaking of an activity, as a hobby, without external incentive; also personal satisfaction derived through self-initiated achievement”. In sports it has been cited that the intrinsic motivations – ie. experiencing self-improvement in the sport and general enjoyment – are far more valued to amateur athletes than the extrinsic motivations. Finding the personal motivations to do something can be the difference of failing and succeeding when we are setting goals in every aspect of our lives. Is it your goal to start a
training program this year and stick to it? Ask yourself why – then ask why again. Dig deep until you find the motivation that matters to you and does not have a tangible reward, or a reward that is dependant on others.

It’s easy to find the extrinsic motivators out there because we can see and hear them all around us. Whether it is looking a certain way, earning a medal, or getting praise from your boss, these are things that we can experience every day. Intrinsic motivators are what we experience on our own and really drive passion in the gym, work place, and in our everyday lives. It is these goals that feed our need to master tasks, become more autonomous, and give us purpose in life.

Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivations are great, but as we said earlier, it is important to have all forms of motivation in a healthy balance. Extrinsic motivators are great for giving yourself that little extra push when you are struggling to stick to your goals. These are things like earning that pay raise at work, winning a medal in a competition, or even getting recognition from friends and family are all forms of extrinsic motivation that work in a pinch.

Find these motivators early on are great for igniting that passion and mindset to make a change in your life. Make these motivations visible, either by writing them down or creating things like a vision board in a space that you see every day to keep them in mind.

Biological Motivation

The final major motivator to think about when we are setting goals are our biological needs. Ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? In 1943, Abraham Maslow presented the basic human needs in a pyramid diagram. At the top of the pyramid, you can see our intrinsic motivators, the middle comprises those extrinsic motivators, and at the bottom, the most basic of our needs are listed. It is these basic needs that we should also consider when we are making goals. How will our goals better serve our basic needs? How can a new exercise regime, for example, better serve our basic needs? How can a new exercise regime, for example, better serve your basic needs?

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

To conclude this week’s blog, it is important to mention S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. This is a practice that is taught in many coaching and counselling courses. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time sensitive/time frame. When you set goals, make sure they are specific. The more specific the goal, the clearer the target. Measurable relates how you will measure the success of this goal. If it is a weight loss/weight gain goal, this would be the number on the scale or the body-fat percentage you are aiming for. Actionable and realistic are likely the most important parts of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. What are the actions you will take to reach this goal, and is it realistic to your life. This is where the various motivations we have talked about in this article come into play. Think about what truly motivates you and how you can use that information to take specific steps to reach your goal. Does the goal also seem realistic with respect to what truly motivates you in life. Lastly is the time frame. You can take 2 weeks or you can take a lifetime. Giving yourself a time frame is important to keep your focused and to keep your gaze on the horizon.

As a final note, here is the famous TED talk by Daniel H. Pink, which quickly summarizes many of the points made in this post. Try setting some new goals, or re-assessing old goals using the 3 forms of motivation. Let us know how it goes in the comments!


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