Make This Simple Psychological Switch to Achieve Your Goals

Updated 05/07/19
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You're familiar with the pattern—you kick off your pursuit of a goal with gusto and determination, practicing discipline committing to the steps needed to achieve it. But somewhere along the line, your motivation wanes and you're less enthusiastic about the outcome. If your New Year's resolutions have long fallen to the wayside and you find yourself cycling back to the same unachieved goals again and again, rest assured you're not alone. Better yet, there's a solution to this common phenomenon. All it takes is a simple shift in mindset.

According to a new study from researchers at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba outlined in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, our sources of motivation change as we progress toward our goals. In a series of five experiments, the researchers found that in the early stages of pursuing a goal, individuals are motivated by hopes and aspirations. Called "promotion motivation," this mindset centers on actions that build toward the intended outcome—like eating healthier or exercising more.

But about halfway along the path to achieving our goal, our mindset needs to shift from one of promotion motivation to prevention motivation. This entails avoiding negative outcomes and focusing on responsibilities to maintain what is already in motion. The problem is that most of us are prone to being predominantly promotion-focused, which causes us lose motivation before we accomplish what we set out to do.

So if you feel yourself getting to this point while working toward your goal, the study's lead author Olya Bullard, PhD, advises switching up your mindset to avoid the negative. She suggests making a list of things not to do and restructuring your actions around those. It may seem like a downer, but once you achieve your goal it will be well worth it.

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