Charles Good on Creating and Sustaining Motivation

Every leader would like to know more effective ways to motivate their people and themselves. Motivation plays a critical role in employees’ productivity, quality, and speed. It is a vital resource that allows us to adapt, function productively and maintain well-being in the face of a constantly changing environment. Although we have a better understanding of this concept today, we still don’t have method for creating and sustaining motivation in our lives.

Many of us still believe that it occurs only after we have nurtured it into existence. Others would argue that it comes through a lightning bolt of inspiration. However, Jeff Haden, New York Times bestselling author of The Motivation Myth, contends there is a proven recipe for creating and sustaining motivation: success. And not just any success, but those small successes that accrue daily from which motivation is forged and strengthened.


When starting a project or task you have been procrastinating, getting started is usually the hardest part, since you have no progress to motivate you. How many times have you rationalized to yourself why you have not started that project (home or work-related)? I know I can find all kinds of excuses to justify my actions.  

However, the ironic part is that when I get started on that project or task, it often becomes less daunting, and I wonder why I kept putting it off. Jeff Haden mentions that the best advice, in this case, is just to ‘break a sweat’. Making progress makes you feel good. These dopamine hits will motivate you to take the next step. Another tip is to scale back the behavior and start small. Find a starter step you can do in under 2 minutes that will allow you to make progress on that project or task. We covered some other ideas on this in our blog on becoming 2.5X more productive.


ANNOUNCING YOUR GOALS TO OTHERS – Many people believe announcing their goals to others will help them get motivated and achieve them. Perhaps they believe other people will hold them accountable or that telling it to others will increase the pressure on them to follow through. Unfortunately, the research has not found this to be the case. In fact, the research shows just the opposite effect. Sharing your aspirations and goals with others creates a premature sense of completeness. You feel you have made progress when, in reality, you have done nothing but tell others. The better approach is to keep your plans and goals to yourself.

GOAL SETTING WILL DEVELOP MOTIVATION – Another common misconception is the importance of goal setting in developing motivation. Goals provide the motivation for their fulfillment as long as the distance from ‘here’ to ‘there’ is manageable. However, what happens when you have a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) goal? Case in point, you have a goal to complete a marathon, but currently, you can’t complete even one mile before collapsing. With these types of goals, James Clear, New York Times bestselling author of Atomic Habits states goals should inform the process that you will follow. Every day it should be the process, not the goal, that informs you of what you are supposed to be doing. Occasionally, remind yourself of the goal to ensure your process is moving in the right direction, but don’t focus on it. As long as you stick to your process, it will create a self-reinforcing loop of daily successes which will create motivation, which will lead to more success and more resulting motivation.

Creating and sustaining motivation is difficult. The key is to enjoy the minor successes that occur every day as you make progress toward your goals. And if you follow this approach, one day in the future, likely without you even noticing, you will start to embrace the routine and not the goal. This shift of focus will enable you to celebrate the daily progress you are making toward your goal, giving you the motivation to do it all over again tomorrow.

To learn about building other habits for success check out our New Year’s blog about forming successful habits.


Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *