Updated: Nov 20
Hi and welcome to this week's 50 & Beyond Health & Wellbeing blog. Each week I will provide you with knowledge, tips, advice and recommendations to inspire you to sustain good metabolic health specific to being over 50. Chris Deavin, myHealthCoach
Why is it we are able to stay motivated for one goal but not for another? Why do we say we want to achieve something but give up pursuing it after just a few days?
Motivation has been studied by scientists for years. One of the most consistent things they have found in staying motivated is to work on tasks of 'just manageable difficulty'.
The Goldilocks Principle
All of us love challenges, but only if they are not too difficult to achieve.
For example, if you played competitive football with a five-year-old, after a while, you would get bored as the skill level required would be low, and you would quickly lose interest. It would be too easy.
On the other hand, if you found yourself playing football against a professional, you would quickly become demotivated as you would be overwhelmed by their superior ability.
If you found yourself competing against someone of the same ability level, you would focus more as you would perceive that you had a chance of winning.
You will find that your focus narrows, distractions fade away and you will find yourself fully invested in the challenge at hand because the challenge you are faced with is just manageable.
Tasks like these, science has found, are the most likely to keep you motivated over the long term.
Tasks that are below your abilities provide low motivation. Tasks that are beyond your abilities are discouraging. But tasks that can provide either success or failure are highly motivating to us.
We want nothing more than to master a task just out of our ability to do so.
This is known as The Goldilocks Rule. The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of our abilities.
Measure Your Progress
If you need to increase your motivation to achieve your goals, then there is something else you can do, as well as apply The Goldilocks Rule. It has to do with achieving a perfect blend between hard work and enjoyment.
Working at an optimal level of difficulty has been found to be not just motivating but enjoyable.
The combination of both enjoyment and peak performance can be referred to as 'flow' or 'in the zone'.
Flow is the mental state you find yourself in that has you extremely focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away.
To achieve this high level of performance, you not only need to work hard at the right level of difficulty but also measure your immediate progress.
To see yourself make progress right there and then is highly motivating.
No matter how you measure it, we need some way to visualise our progress if we are to sustain motivation. We need to see that we are winning.
So, if you want to stay motivated, then stick to working on tasks that are just hard enough and measure progress so you receive instant feedback on how you are doing.
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