By Jordan Yassine
While 2017 is right around the corner, you may be thinking about a new year’s resolution. Maybe you’d like to hit the gym more often, eat healthier, or expand your social circle. There’s a lot of variety in the resolutions that people make each year. However, the most popular resolution is giving up: It’s a well-known fact that many resolutions simply vanish throughout the year.
To help avoid this people often try to conjure up the motivation to stick to their new promise. Many “psych themselves out” by doing intellectual/spiritual activities. These can include self-coaching, soul-searching, and even just waiting for motivation to strike. People habitually look within to find the drive to succeed in their outside world. And sadly, they may spend years doing this with little to show: They’re looking in all the wrong places.
Behavioral scientists have been studying the topic of motivation for decades. Their work has led to an advanced understanding in what drives both animal and human behavior. According to an article published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, motivation is best found in the surrounding environment. In other words, instead of searching within to find the motivation you’re looking for, you should be searching without. Your motivation is actually something that you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
For example, a woman told her husband that he needed to lose weight. Although he made it his new year’s resolution, his biggest struggle was sticking to a regimen. Oddly enough, he couldn’t bring himself to the gym regularly. Now his wife promised that she’d take him to the Bahamas if he lost weight. In a whirlwind of excitement he deliberately forced himself to hit the gym consistently: He became motivated. He wanted to go to the Bahamas. Thus his motivation didn’t come from within, but from an outside event presented by his wife.
The underlying theme here is to show that motivation is largely environmental, and not something that you can just hope to create inside of you. If you’re seeking to motivate someone to change, the first step is to look to their environment. “What can I present that will drive him/her towards that change?” In the case of sticking to your new year’s resolution, the following may help: First, write down in concrete terms what your new year’s resolution goal is. Second, make a list of desirable items/activities that you’d like. Third, promise yourself that item/activity if you meet your goal. If you think you may not have enough self-control, designate someone to be your “gate-keeper”. Your gate-keeper will keep that item/activity until you reach your goal.