Scientists Examine What Motivates People to Achieve a Goal
As it turns out, rewards aren't always enough to keep you going.
If your goal for 2020 was to start exercising a few days a week before work, but you've found yourself falling short of achievement, that may be because of the effort required to get out of bed early in the morning. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London recently studied the difference between effort and reward when it comes to setting—and maintaining—a goal. They found that people who create a new goal—whether it be to eat healthier, clean their house more frequently, or exercise on a regular basis—are initially motivated by the reward (such as losing weight, a more organized home, or a healthier heart). However, the reward is not enough to keep people going. Researchers found that shortly after people put their plans into action, their focus became less about the reward and more about the effort required to achieve the goal.
"For example, getting up early to exercise for a new healthy lifestyle might seem like a good choice when we decide on our New Year's resolutions, but once your alarm goes off on a cold January morning, the rewards aren't enough to get you up and out of bed," explains Dr. Osman, Reader in Experimental Psychology at Queen Mary University.
In the study, participants were given an experiment, which assessed both mental and physical effort in relation to a financial reward. "Common sense suggests the amount of effort we put into a task directly relates to the level of reward we expect in return. However, building psychological and economic evidence indicates that often high rewards are not enough to ensure people put in the effort they need to achieve their targets," said Dr. Agata Ludwiczak, a Research Fellow from Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study.
While an exciting end result may be motivation, the day-to-day effort can distract—and discourage—individuals to do what's needed to achieve their goal.