3 Research-Backed Techniques That Will Help You 'Manifest' Success

If you want success, you have to work for it. Here's how to motivate yourself along the journey.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 19, 2024

Many people believe that motivation is the fundamental element in altering habits, often perceiving it as an innate trait one either possesses or lacks. However, motivation is not a fixed psychological trait or inherent personality characteristic. Rather, it is a dynamic quality that can be nurtured and cultivated over time through deliberate effort and practice. That is to say, motivation is not predetermined but can be developed through various strategies and approaches.

Here are three strategies to boost your motivation and achieve your goals, based on science.

1. Nail Down The "What" And "Why" Of Your Goals Clearly

Clearly defining your goals and understanding the reasons behind them is a powerful way to boost motivation. When you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve and why it matters to you, you're more likely to stay focused and committed to taking action.

Firstly, setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) objectives is essential. A study published in Psychological Bulletin highlights the importance of establishing challenging goals for increasing motivation and achieving success. Clear goals encourage individuals to allocate more cognitive resources toward achieving them, leading to greater effort, perseverance and motivation.

Equally important is understanding the "why" behind your goals. Reflect on why achieving these goals is meaningful to you personally. Connecting emotionally with your goals provides intrinsic motivation and helps you overcome obstacles.

To gain clarity on your objectives, engage in self-reflection. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What specific steps can I take to move closer to achieving this?
  • How significant is this change to me?
  • What are my top three motivations for pursuing this goal?

Breaking down large goals into smaller, manageable tasks creates a clear roadmap for success and allows you to track your progress effectively. Verbalizing your answers can strengthen your commitment and motivation. This clarity prevents overwhelm and provides a clear path forward towards achieving your goals.

2. Reward Yourself Wisely

It's a common belief that rewarding someone for an activity they already enjoy will make them like it even more. However, contrary to this belief, incentivizing tasks that people are inherently motivated to do can occasionally have adverse effects and diminish motivation. Intrinsic motivation, stemming from internal drives, regards the activity itself as inherently rewarding. When individuals receive rewards for tasks they already find enjoyable, their subsequent motivation to engage in those activities may decline. This phenomenon is termed the overjustification effect.

Here's how to carefully self-incentivize:

  • Use extrinsic rewards sparingly. While rewards can be effective in increasing motivation for activities that are otherwise unappealing, it's important to use them sparingly. Over-reliance on external rewards can lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation.
  • Phase out rewards as interest grows. As you become more interested in an activity, gradually phase out the extrinsic rewards. This allows you to transition from relying on external incentives to finding enjoyment and satisfaction from the activity itself.

3. Imagine The Journey, Not Just The Destination

While fixating solely on the end goal is tempting, vividly imagining its achievement can sometimes dampen motivation to pursue it in reality. Instead, shifting focus towards visualizing the journey itself—the process of growth, learning and development—proves to be a powerful strategy. Research highlights how focusing on the process rather than goal achievement increases your chances for success.

For instance, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, motivation shifts during different performance stages. Therefore, prioritizing actionable steps in the initial phases of goal pursuit, like expanding networks or honing technical skills, proves effective. As progress is made, redirecting focus can help you avoid mistakes and maintain precision in your work, thus minimizing potential risks or challenges along the way.

Another integrative review underscores how mental simulations or imagined experiences can profoundly impact individuals, encouraging them to concentrate on envisioning the process positively rather than focusing solely on achieving success. Mental rehearsal or visualization can significantly influence beliefs and decision-making, akin to real experiences.

Thus, prioritizing satisfaction in the daily incremental progress rather than solely chasing external markers of success, like accolades or achievements, can be more effective in ensuring lasting fulfillment and success.

Do small stepbacks ruin your motivation momentum? Take the Mistake Rumination Scale to know if you could benefit from support.

A similar version of this article can also be found on, here.

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