Goal setting and achievement tips: reward progress and build a string of successes

People primarily pursue long-term goals, such as exercising, to receive delayed rewards (e.g., improved health). However, we find that the presence of immediate rewards is a stronger predictor of persistence in goal-related activities than the presence of delayed rewards.
— from "Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long-Term Goals" Woolley & Fishbach

Big Hairy Audacious Goals are known to be inspiring - at first.  

They can motivate us to get started on a grand mission. They are energizing and propel organizations forward. 

Unfortunately, that energy can dissipate over time, or in the phase of resistance. That initial motivation and focus can be a challenge to sustain over time.

The way to manage this: set up a series of smaller or "intermediate" wins.

You can represent these as milestones in a project, or specific key results on the way to a larger objective. You can also stack your goals on a path. This allows you to celebrate win's along the way. Instead of a long period framed in terms of the absence of success, you get a string of successes. 

One example of doing this is martial arts training.  At one point in time, there were only white belts and black belts.  The modern (western) color belt system evolved to help students sustain the motivation needed to get from white belt to black.  

Recent findings from two researchers at the University of Chicago provide more data on this value: having intermediate rewards is a stronger predictor of persistence than the presence of delayed rewards. You can view the complete study here.

 

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