NATNews Blog > September 2016 > How to stay motivated: The art and science of leveraging small wins

    How to stay motivated: The art and science of leveraging small wins

    9/28/2016 9:43:54 AM
    Humans by nature are goal-oriented beings – we often experience the burning excitement of a new goal, which gives us the motivation to take our first steps toward achieving it. Perhaps your goal is to lose weight, become the top salesperson in your company, or save up enough money for that dream trip to Greece.
    As a result, you might have created an action plan and even started making serious progress, when suddenly you hit a bump in the road. Before long, your willpower starts to dwindle and all your efforts fizzle out leaving you confused and disappointed with yourself.
    It’s easy to give up on your goals when the road to success gets bumpy. So, how can you stick to your plan when the messy middle part is dragging you down?
    Teresa Amabile, Research Director of Harvard Business School, studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. After analyzing 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees in seven companies, Teresa along with other Harvard associates found that the efforts of tracking small achievements every day enhanced the workers’ motivation.
    Amabile explains that the practice of recording our progress will help us appreciate our small wins, which in turn boosts our sense of confidence. We can then leverage that competence toward subsequent larger successes.
    Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry in our brains, which releases a key chemical known as neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical energizes us and gives us the feeling of achievement and pride that enables us to take action and move toward what triggered its release in the first place.
    Strangely, this same chemical response is what gets people hooked on gambling, nicotine and alcohol.  What the people in the study had essentially discovered was an addiction to progress.
    To make progress, you must fall in love with the everyday grind of pursuing your goal. If you do not, it will quickly turn into a burden on your shoulders and a haunting reminder of what you couldn’t achieve. Amabile suggests that the best way to keep yourself motivated and on track toward achieving your goals is to record your small wins daily.  This way you won’t have to wait to achieve your end goal to get a sense of accomplishment.
    There are many tools one can utilize to record small wins. While some people may prefer to journal in physical notebooks, others might want a digital version. If your preference is digital there are plenty of options to choose from like Penzu, Rednotebook, Google Doc, or a regular Word Doc. If you like using apps, a great, easy-to-use app is IDoneThis.
    Now that you know the power of small wins, start racking them up, celebrate them and remember: “Every win makes the next win more likely.” – Vince Lombardi
    Adapted from an article posted on by Patrick Edblad, “How to stay motivated: The art & science of leveraging small wins.” 
    Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.