What’s the secret to persistence?
When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy. This effect even carries over to subsequent tasks.
Get-better goals, on the other hand, are practically bulletproof. When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and mastering, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur… The amazing thing was that the people who were pursuing get-better goals (i.e., who saw the test as an opportunity to learn a new problem-solving skill) were completely unaffected by any of our dirty tricks. No matter how hard we made it, these participants stayed motivated and did well.
Research shows that a focus on getting-better also enhances the experience of working; we naturally find what we do more interesting and enjoyable when we think about it in terms of progress, rather than perfection. And lest you think that interest in your work is a mere luxury, let me assure it is not; it is a powerful motivator. Finding what you do interesting and believing it has inherent value is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated despite difficulty, setbacks, and unexpected roadblocks. In fact, a recent set of studies shows that interest doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue; it actually replenishes your energy.
In another study, the researchers found that experiencing interest resulted in better performance on a subsequent task as well. In other words, you don’t just do a better job on task A because you find task A interesting; you do a better job on follow-up task B because you found task A interesting. The replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.
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