Getting motivated and staying motivated – what is the science behind it

Motivation is the spirit that helps you in starting with any project or working in office or practicing music or sports for long hours. In short, it’s something that makes you get up in the morning and urges you to achieve. You can be motivated by the desire to reach your goal, but the degree of motivation does not remain the same always. Research has found that we sometimes lose interest halfway through a project and our motivation fizzles out. Scientists have also found that motivation can be learned, just as you learn any skill. Let’s take a look at how we can maintain our motivation levels to achieve our goals:

 Work on your motivation strategies

loose weight

Suppose you are trying to lose weight, or save money to buy a house or go on a trip, you have to focus all your efforts to reach your goal. According to scientists, people can follow two strategies – ‘promotion motivation’ and ‘prevention motivation’. When you are being positive and do everything possible to make progress, such as eating healthy and exercising more to lose the weight, it is called ‘promotion motivation’. And when you follow avoidance techniques, such as avoiding sweets and desserts, you are practising the ‘prevention motivation’ strategy. This usually happens when you get closer to your goal. Most of us follow these two strategies, but unknowingly.

In order to stay motivated, you can practice both of these strategies consciously. Researchers have opined that if you switch from ‘promotion’ to ‘prevention’ strategy, as you get closer to your goal, you would be able to sustain your motivation levels from beginning to end.

Autonomy, value and competence

achieve the relevant goals

Psychologists have discovered three important elements which support motivation – autonomy, value and competence.

Scientists at the University of Rochester have found that you feel motivated when you are self-directed, or have the feeling that you are in charge, rather than when you are working under someone else’s authority. Autonomy makes you energized, and makes you stay motivated.

It seems that motivation blossoms when one is true to one’s values and beliefs. Assigning value is important to keep up your enthusiasm and keep you involved in your work, till you reach your goal. A deep acknowledgement of the value of your work is the motivating factor to complete it.

As the saying goes, ‘Practice makes a man perfect’, which is very true when it comes to sustaining motivation levels. As your skills improve, you become more competent and feel more confident. For example, if you are a musician and you believe that your innate talent is what brings you success rather than practice, you are more liable to give up when your skill set doesn’t match up to new challenges. So developing your skills in your chosen field can foster excellence and inspire you to keep going.

How to stay motivated

more money for a job

When you are able to go beyond ‘extrinsic motivation’ for example, more money for a job, and delve into your ‘intrinsic motivation’ i.e. passion or drive, you can stay motivated. You should start concentrating on building discipline, and developing habits which enhance your ability to motivate yourself.

Start small

Large to-do lists and tasks can be quite overwhelming, which might make you give up on your project. You could break down bigger goals into small pieces, which you can achieve easily. The taste of success will drive you to complete the rest of the pieces and ultimately you can build the momentum which will take you to the finish line.

Design an inspiring environment around you


We are affected by our environment in positive and negative ways. For example, if your desk is cluttered and untidy, you will not feel like sitting down and working. Or if your room is untidy and your gym shoes are nowhere to be seen, you would not even remember to go to the gym.

The most important thing you have to do is to push yourself. It’s easy to act when you are highly motivated, but it’s tough when your energy, inspiration and motivation levels are down. This is the time when you have to force yourself to follow your regular schedule so that you don’t fall behind in your work / action. Working even when you don’t feel like, is one of the key differentiators between success and failure.

Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team (c)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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