Amy Rees Anderson

Nothing Motivates Us Better Than Progress

We have dreams…we set goals…then we begin working on our goals…the more we progress toward those goals the better we feel about ourselves and the more motivated we get…

Teresa Arnabile of Harvard published research on a phenomenon that she refers to it as the progress principle:  “Of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work… Even when progress happens in small steps, a person’s sense of steady forward movement toward an important goal can make all the difference between a great day and a terrible one. This pattern became increasingly obvious as the diaries came in from all the teams in our study. People’s inner work lives seemed to lift or drag depending on whether or not their projects moved forward, even by small increments. Small wins often had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly strong negative one. We tested our impressions more rigorously in two ways. Each confirmed the power of progress to dominate inner work life.”  She goes on to explain that, “On days when people have made real progress in work that matters to them, they end the day feeling more intrinsically motivated—turned by their interest in and enjoyment of the work.”

Nothing motivates us better than progress…and the more we progress toward our goals the more excited we become…and the more excited we become the harder we try…and the harder we try the faster we progress toward the finish line.  This is what’s known as the goal gradient effect. It was discovered long ago by scientists who noticed that the closer a mouse gets to the end of a maze, the harder it tries and the faster it goes – they found that when the finish line is in sight there is an extra boost of motivation and energy that go into getting there.  That same goal gradient effect applies to all of us. The closer we get to accomplishing our goals the more energy we feel and the more motivated we become to work harder and faster.

It all comes down to making progress. We have to be willing to make progress every day toward our goals, and the more progress we make, the more motivated we will become, and the faster we will find ourselves racing toward that finish line.

~Amy Rees Anderson

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