Boost Your Motivation By Focusing On Possible Losses, Not Gains

Want an extra push to achieve your goals? According to recent research, you might be able to boost your motivation by 50 per cent by simply reframing an incentive.

Clock and money image from Shutterstock

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who focus on losing a reward are more motivated to exercise than those who focused on gaining a reward. In the study, 281 adults were given a goal of taking 7000 steps per day. One group had a "gain incentive": They earned $2 each day they achieved the goal.

Another had a "lottery incentive": They got a chance to win $2 each day they achieved the goal. And the third group had a "loss incentive": They were given $56 upfront each month but $2 was deducted each day the goal wasn't achieved. Some were also assigned to a control group with just daily feedback but no financial incentive.

After 13 weeks of tracking plus and additional 13 weeks with feedback but no incentives, those in the loss-incentive group met the goal 50 per cent more than the control group or those in the gain-incentive groups.

To apply the findings to your own life, try flipping something you'd normally consider a positive "earning" into a loss you want to avoid. For example, instead of treating yourself to a new pair of shoes if you walk every day for the next month, buy the shoes — and then force yourself to return them if you don't meet the goal in the given time. (Probably best not to wear them during this trial.)

Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults [Annals of Internal Medicine via PsyBlog]


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