This is How to Motivate Yourself: A Powerful Strategy Backed by Research
You’ve set your audacious goals.
You’ve broken them into smaller milestones and daily actions.
And you’ve even started making some progress.
But then, you seem to hit a wall.
Your initial enthusiasm runs out.
And, as a result, you’re finding it very difficult to show up and do the work every day.
But it doesn’t have to be so hard.
One simple tweak in your strategy can be all that’s needed to keep going.
How the Mind Perceives Losses & Gains
In behavioral economics, there’s a concept know as loss aversion (1).
It refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring equivalent gains.
According to the researchers who first demonstrated this idea, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.
In other words, losing ten dollars stings twice as much as gaining ten dollars feels good.
And that’s just what they’ve stated officially in their research.
Unofficially, they’ve said that it’s really more like five to seven times as much.
They just wrote down two times as much to get fewer arguments.
How Loss Aversion Affects Our Motivation
When we set goals, we tend to focus on the benefits we’ll attain from achieving it.
We’ll imagine getting in shape, more money in our bank account, a new career, and more quality time with our family and friends.
We might even put all of these things on a vision board to remind ourselves of these things every day.
And that’s perfectly fine. But what loss aversion teaches us is that we also need to take into consideration what we’ll lose if we don’t reach our goals.
If a vision board motivates you, an anti-vision board will motivate you two times (but really five to seven times) as much.
How to Motivate Yourself Through Loss Aversion
The next time you’re trying to motivate yourself to achieve a big goal, don’t just focus on the potential gains.
Pay just as much attention, if not more, to the potential losses. Ask yourself hard questions like:
- What do I stand to lose if I don’t reach my goal?
- What is the path I’m on costing me every single day?
- What will my future look like if I don’t change?
These questions will help you perceive status quo as a loss.
And when that happens, you’ll be much more likely to take action.
Picture by William Stitt.