How to Maintain Motivation

Once the initial buzz of a new project or goal wears off, you need to find other ways to stay motivated.

Published: Mar 14, 2022

In January, Kayleigh set a goal of getting a performance-based raise at the end of the year. Now that it’s March and various distractions in the world and her personal life have set in, her motivation is flagging.

It’s commonly cited that 80% of people ditch their New Year’s resolutions by February. This suggests that the initial jolt of excitement from a new goal lasts about a month without other habits and practices bolstering motivation. “Without the right system, most goals are just wishful thinking or good intentions,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Here’s how to stoke your internal fire and make sure you achieve your goals.

Without the right system, most goals are just wishful thinking or good intentions.

Know your goal-setting style.

The way people go about setting and pursuing goals is actually quite varied. Some people rebel against goals, even if they set them for themselves. Some won’t set a goal until they know exactly what it will accomplish. Some set a goal, but let it disappear without external accountability. And some set goals very cautiously, because once they commit to one, they see it through.

Each of these types of people will need different things to keep them motivated. For example, people who need to know exactly what their goal will accomplish may need frequent reminders of the end state they’re pursuing.

Depend on habits.

"Motivation can be short-lived unless the actions required to achieve the goal can be habituated,” Olson says. Deciding every day to work hard takes a lot of mental energy. But working hard habitually takes far less output; the effort becomes normal and the element of choice disappears.

According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Even if your habit-forming window falls below or above that average, you’ll need to take consistent action toward your goal every day until the habit is solidified.

Build up internal and external motivation.

“You can count on obstacles along the journey to achieving a goal,” Olson says. And the best type of motivation for facing obstacles is intrinsic, according to career experts. It comes from your values and personal need to achieve the goal, and tends to be a very powerful driver.

But you may also want to bolster yourself with external motivators, whether that means rewards for achieving milestones or working with a coach who can check in with you and hoold you accountable.

Distinguish between flagging motivation and burnout. 

Doing the work on a day you don’t feel motivated is positive, until it isn’t. Expect that there will be times when you need to push through to get things done. But it’s equally important to take breaks. An athlete who trained every day without recovery would likely burn out, and the same goes for any other goal. “Too much work and not enough resources, a misfit between personal values and tasks, and neglecting your health and personal responsibilities can lead to frustration and squeeze the joy out of any goal, no matter how exciting,” Olson says.

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