Motivation Cycle is the awareness of how motivation varies over time is particularly important when it comes to goal setting.
When we differentiate the motivational and the performance-based advantages versus disadvantages for those who adopt a short-term goal, as in eating less than 2000 calories today, versus performers who adopt a long-term goal, as in losing 20 pounds this year, we must consider the type of activity they are engaging in before making recommendations.
Short term goals work better for uninteresting activities as they boost commitment by providing feedback on progress more often, which further reinforces the effort to persist (Reeve, 2018).
Motivation to perform routine or boring activities can be improved; however, by providing clarity of goals and choices in how to perform a task. Clarity and choice can fuel a sense of mastery and autonomy, and both, in combination, can increase overall motivation as they satisfy basic psychological needs.
When it comes to interesting tasks, or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) calls them autotelic activities, long-term goals work better as they often provide for greater flexibility and more autonomy in how to pursue them. Short terms milestones can feel intrusive for interesting activities. Autotelic activities are already engaging, and we are often intrinsically motivated to perform them because they produce enjoyment. But most importantly, we are motivated to pursue them in the absence of external rewards or incentives.
‘Autotelic’ is a word composed of two Greek roots: auto (self), and telos (goal). An autotelic activity is one we do for its own sake because to experience it is the main goal.
We also need to keep in mind that motivation to act on the goals is often higher when the goal is based in the near future, while far off goals do not create the tension of immediacy that would motivate us to act right away (Reeve, 2018).
To learn more about the types of motivation that exist, see our article on Motivation and What Really Drives Human Behavior.
You can also find many different approaches to increase motivation in the list of self-help books published on the subject. Some are more philosophical, others biographical, and a few present recent research in motivation psychology.