Tips for staying motivated in the long term.
Dr. Thomas Bateman
Losing weight, investing for retirement, perfecting an art—we all know long-term goals require patience to achieve. But how do we stay motivated when the finish line is far from sight?
New research from University of Virginia professor of management Dr. Thomas Bateman and his Vanderbilt colleague Dr. Bruce Barry offers insight into keeping ourselves motivated over time. They have written about long-term goals and motivation in online journal The Conversation (July 2015) and published a study on the subject in the Journal of Organizational Behavior (October 2012).
The pair interviewed cancer researchers, NASA Pluto scientists and others working on extremely long-term projects, including Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) scientists who wait patiently for signals from outer space. Some may not expect their work to be completed during their lifetimes.
“What keeps people going, even when there’s no evidence that it’s working?” asks Bateman. As it turns out, the scientists used both “near-term” (day to day) and “distant” (long-term) motivations to stay focused on reaching their goals. Here, Bateman shares some of the strategies the scientists use—things we can all do to keep us on track to meet our objectives. Find the task interesting: Stay fascinated by your subject and never stop learning about it. Embrace professionalism and “embeddedness” with others: For professional goals, go to conferences, talk with others in your field and publish your findings, even when there is little to report. Seek supportive camaraderie. Celebrate small signs of progress: These are things that feel good immediately. They might be little, and they aren’t the big carrot, but they feel good. Get fueled by critics: Don’t let criticism get you down—let it provide an extra spur. Draw historical inspiration: The scientists and researchers would talk about historical examples of great scientists and explorers, and about how they were all standing on one another’s shoulders to achieve a goal.
Bateman also says keeping their goals top of mind—personal recognition, awards, or positively impacting society—helped the scientists stay focused. They “would find ways to remind themselves, when they were in the weeds and discouraged, why they’re doing these things.” Commerce.Virginia.edu
You know the drill. Many of us spend hours hunched over our desks at work, not getting up as often as we know we should. We all know such habits can lead to a sore neck and shoulders and lower back pain, but they can also contribute to obesity and a host of diseases. So, what can we do?
One of the first lines of defense is a good chair. The Zody Task Chair ($749-$1,600) by Haworth fits the bill, and is endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association. The chair can be tuned to the height and lumbar needs of the user (with elbows bent at 90 degrees relative to the desk).
To get people moving during the workday, Relax the Back online sells a Motorized Standing Table ($1,295, in cherry or espresso) that can be easily adjusted for alternating periods of sitting and standing.
Sometimes even small changes can have an impact. Tidewater Physical Therapy, based in Newport News, offers a workplace ergonomics assessment. Assessors spend 1-2 hours observing employees as they go about their day, then make suggestions for improvements. Moving a stapler away from the desk to another part of the room, for instance, encourages movement.
“The most important thing is to teach people how to incorporate motion or activity throughout the day,” says president of Tidewater Physical Therapy, Wayne McMasters, PT, MSPT. “We’d much rather see a person have a bad chair and get out of it frequently than have a good chair and sit in it all day long.” Haworth.com,RelaxTheBack.com, TPTI.com