Motivation: How To Use It Correctly

At the end of one year, about ten percent of people are still on board with their New Year’s Resolution, according to Dr. Jim Taylor.

My New Year’s Resolution: To provide an alternative to trying to change once a year using a heavily flawed, proven-to-fail method.

The reason I’m not writing about this closer to New Year’s day is that many of you have already failed your New Year’s Resolution(s).  This hopefully means you’re receptive for a new idea.  In addition, I can write about New Year’s whenever I want to.  😀

So maybe you’re already on board with believing New Year’s Resolutions to be pointless.  Great, but do you understand why they don’t work?

Abusing Motivation

When you abuse something, it loses appeal.  It is degraded.  It is weakened.  New Year’s Resolutions abuse motivation.  Motivation is temporary in nature while New Year’s Resolutions are long-term goals.  You’ll see why this is a problem later.

Motivation has a profoundly negative effect on our lives when we abuse it.  Unlike other failures, a motivation-based failure to achieve a goal does more harm than good because it is not something we naturally learn from.  It is evidence in our minds that we don’t have what it takes to be who we want to be.  Of course this is not true, but it is difficult to believe in yourself after repeated internal failure.

A newly motivated mind considers previous instances of motivation and what results came of it.  Imagine a person with a success rate of 95% when they are motivated to do something.  At 95%, motivation is strong because the perceived likelihood of success is very high.  Now replace that with a 20% success rate – motivation suffers.

Motivation Is A Cannibal

It feeds upon itself and works best when it works.

I bet that was confusing to read.  Allow me to explain that mess.

Motivation is best created under probable conditions of success.  In other words, don’t be motivated to lose 100 pounds, be motivated to lose 2 pounds.  If you think this is a small difference, then I BEG you to reconsider for your own good.  Here is how each one usually turns out.

The Grand New Year’s Resolution: Decide to lose 100 pounds this year

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 200.  This would be an incredible accomplishment!  You start out ready to do it.  You are so motivated that you lose 10 pounds in the first month.  You kick it up a notch and lose 15 more the next month.  You are well on your way!

Weight Loss MotivationInto the 3rd month you’ve lost 35 pounds, but you sprain your ankle and have to rest.  You gain some weight back.  You lose focus on the goal for a while and try to get back into it, but at 8 months you’ve only lost 40 pounds and you know you won’t reach the goal.

You finish the year at 270 pounds.  You’re mentally worn out from trying to get to 100 and let yourself gain a lot of the weight back.  Now you’re certain you’ll never be able to lose weight.

Tuesday Afternoon At McDonalds: Decide to lose 2 pounds whenever

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 298.  You lose 2 pounds the first week and are naturally encouraged to lose 3 more pounds.  Next week, done!  Now you’re feeling really good, having accomplished two motivation-based goals, and want to see if you can lose 5 more pounds to get to 290.  This trend continues into the third month when you sprain your ankle.  You have to rest for a while and even gain back some of the weight from before.

You recognize the setback and adjust the goal to lose 5 pounds from your current weight and accomplish it in 3 weeks.  This process continues and you end up accomplishing 23 small weight-loss goals during the year.  When you’re reflecting on the past year, you realize that you have lost 40 pounds and weigh 260!  You know that if you just keep this up, you’ll be right where you want to be in no time.  So you set your next goal – 255….


The reason that the small goal-setter continued on is that he did not have to keep re-motivating himself for the same goal.  This is tiring and extremely difficult to do, especially for lofty goals.  Instead, he motivated himself for goals he knew he could accomplish. Each of the 23 goal intervals on the way to 260 was met with a great feeling of success.  His motivation for the next goal fed off of his results for the previous goals (cannibal!).  He knew to expect success when he set a goal, and it excited him.

So be careful with motivation.  It is extremely powerful when used effectively and a major drain when it is not.  It is still good to set challenging goals, because the sense of accomplishment is greater.  Push yourself, but don’t overdo it.  If you push yourself too hard and fail once, you have the support of succeeding with 25 others.  If you make one huge goal a year and fail, it pounds your confidence into the ground.

Have you been using motivation correctly?  Let me know in the comments what you think.  I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums up 100 pounds (results) vs. 2 pounds (small change) very well.

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon


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