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What is the science behind motivation? What drives us in achieving our everyday goals? Sticking to your goals is not always an easy task, after all, forty-five percent of people drop their New Years Resolution after just one  month. That’s a staggering number! Why is it so difficult to keep our motivation? Let’s explore the science of motivation.


When we’re given a task that requires problem solving, economic or emotional pressure can cause focus to shift to the motivator, ultimately dividing your attention and reducing performance. When we look inside the brains of individuals performing a certain task, we see that people who complete a challenge for fun and people who do it for a reward show similar brain activity. Interestingly, those offered a reward the first time who are offered to do it again without a reward will still go ahead and do it again.


Play is the strongest motivator for sustained behavioral changes. It makes sense that we stick with enjoyable activities but considering that 67 percent of gym memberships go unused, it seems that most of us are choosing the wrong activities to reach our goals.  Choose something you actually enjoy doing. That way, you are much more likely to stay motivated to continue.


Your goal itself also matters. A study found that those focused on weight loss spend thirty-two percent less time exercising than those who simply stated that they wanted to feel better in day to day life. That means that the goal itself is what matters.


In a study of females trying to quit smoking, participants who only imagined success with few obstacles were much more successful. Imagining a goal coming true and then thinking through the obstacles that stand in your way is the best mixed approach. This is known as mental contrasting.


Finally, try to avoid the “what the heck” effect. This behavior was first addressed when researchers gave dieters varying sizes of milkshakes from small to large and then offered them ice cream afterwards. Those who had the large size milkshakes actually indulged in more ice cream because they figured “what the heck,” I’ve already gone all out, what’s a little more?


Now that you are more informed about the science of motivation, hopefully you can make the best decisions to keep yourself motivated!