How to Use Goals to Stay Motivated Over the Long Haul
2 min read

How to Use Goals to Stay Motivated Over the Long Haul

Goals contribute in a very important way to staying motivated long-term. They determine what you perceive, generate positive emotions, and motivate you when you make progress. Today, we’ll look at why that’s the case and how we can use the power of goals in our daily lives.

Why You Need Clear Goals

You need goals because you perceive the world in terms of actions possible, in terms of tools and obstacles. You ignore the rest of the world – which is most of it. If your goal is to get to work, you’ll get up and take a shower (tool), feel stressed when you forgot to pack lunch (obstacle) and be happy, when the bus is on time (tool).

Further, goals determine whether something is preferable or not. They determine what you enjoy and whether something generates positive or negative emotions. Let’s say you do yoga. If your goal is to get in shape or fix a health issue, you’ll experience positive emotions during your Yoga-session. But, if your goal is to play video games and your physiotherapist has ordered you to do Yoga you’ll experience negative emotions as you progress through the session.

For goals to work, you need to define them very clearly. You need clear goals. Your goals are clear when the conditions for success are totally unambiguous. Clear goals allow you to quickly categorize objects, experiences and information into tools and obstacles. Which then generate positive or negative emotions.

The Benefits of Clear Goals

When your goals are clear, your brain can track progress towards your goals. But, it goes even further in that the release of dopamine gradually ramps up as you progress through a task that is related to your goals and get closer to completing it. Everything that brings you closer to your goals increases your motivation to complete the goal. This is why we become more motivated when we make progress on a task that we are unmotivated to do.

How to Use Goals to Be Motivated

With that information, we can put together a blueprint for how to use goals to become motivated.

First, define a clear end goal for an area of your life.

Second, break this goal down into projects.

Third, break the project down into as many steps as possible.

Fourth, turn these steps into a checklist where you can check off each step and monitor your progress.

Fifth, use the checklist to generate a daily to-do list. Work on it and check off what you’ve completed.

In this way, you can use goals as sources of progress that increase your motivation.[1]

  1. The newsletter issue titled "Goals change your brain's perception of the world and your motivation" by Joseph Everett from the 15. of June 2020 inspired this post and has the science behind it. Sadly, it's not publicly available. But you can find videos with similar topics and the science behind them on his YouTube channel, too. ↩︎

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