A few years ago Harvard academic Teresa Amabile wrote The Progress Principle, in which she detailed how the central tenet of our motivation is that we make progress. Whatever it is we’re doing, if we feel we’re making progress in it, then our motivation will be maintained.
It’s easy to see why this is the case. It’s momentum that often fuels our motivation and keeps us going sufficiently long to achieve something more substantial. Without that motivation you often give up before you reach that point.
So the key to all of this is to get some quick wins so that you can build this momentum at an early stage and move on to other things with gusto and enthusiasm. After all, the worst thing for your motivation is to be stuck on a seemingly endless project which has no visible end in sight. You plug away for months on end, during which time you have precious little to show for your efforts. Hardly motivational is it?
Instead, break the huge project down into much smaller chunks that can be used as signposts of your progress. Even the smallest of victories can give you the jolt in motivation you need to carry on going.
Wins, no matter how small, are key to maintaining enthusiasm
If you’re producing something for a customer for instance, rather than slogging away until its ’perfect’, why not think instead about releasing it to the public as soon as possible? Not only do you get the excitement that comes with launching something you’ve worked hard on, but you also get the buzz from receiving feedback from the customers themselves.
Use this feedback to improve your offering, so that you then get that buzz of achievement again with the next iteration, together of course with the fresh round of feedback that accompanies your new release.
Of course, it’s not always possible to achieve this, and sometimes you have to work on long, cumbersome projects. How can you maintain your enthusiasm in such circumstances?
Try here to dedicate a day a week (or two) to generating some small victories that you can use to maintain your fire and enthusiasm. These small wins allow you to celebrate, if only with yourself, and potentially release the good news within your team.
Suffice to say, this desire for quick wins comes with a possible dark side too. When the desire for that winning feel becomes so strong and so addictive we can begin to take short-cuts purely so that we can obtain our next hit. Our next rush of success.
We can see this all too easily in social media for instance, with a rapid growth in crowdturfing, whereby individuals or organisations attempt to game various social media based statistics by buying a like or a follower. These metrics are very easy to measure, but they’re also very easy to fake.
The best way to ensure you don’t fall into this trap is to keep reality in mind and ensure that any goals you target are worthwhile ones that matter towards your overall target. Also make sure that you chase those goals with integrity so you’re not tempted to try and short-cut the process.
Do these and you’ll hopefully obtain all of the joys of progress with few of the pitfalls.