This past month I joined many others around the country for National Novel Writing Month. I set myself the goal to write something, anything, each night. It did not matter how much, just that I did it. I am happy to say that I was able to make this goal 26 days out of November.
The whole process got me to thinking about the recent uptick I noticed with clients coming to my office to discuss difficulty with being motivated. These conversations reminded me of a lesson I used to teach with my Intro to Psych students. The lesson is very simple, but the impact can be very profound.
Many studies have found the phenomena that has come to be labeled the “Goldilocks Phenomenon.” This phenomenon is that we do best when we do something that is within our “good enough” zone. Tasks that are extremely difficult are discouraging. Tasks that are too easy do not help us learn new material and therefore are not as engaging.
So if you want to increase your motivation, you should look at the type of task you are trying to perform. Is it too difficult? Is it too easy? If it falls into one of these categories you may need to readjust it. Trying to write an entire novel in a month is an extremely difficult task for a novice writer, so make it manageable. For me it came down to simply doing the tasks. Don’t forget though that as your motivation changes and your skills increase, your ability to complete a task will change. This means that you also need to be aware of your progress, so tracking your changes is also very helpful in increasing your motivation. By looking at your progress in your tasks you can get a better idea of where you are being successful and where you may need to make adjustments. Good luck in the goals you set for yourself this month!