Evidence-based motivation

aging_activeDo you ever find it hard to accomplish what you set out to do?   I know it’s a problem I encounter sometimes, especially in this era of instant communication where there is so much distraction. So what’s the best way to get something done?

Writer and photographer James Clear wrote a blog post recently that spelled out some of the evidence surrounding how to accomplish your goals. The basic principle is this: make a specific plan.

In his post, Clear describes a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology that looked at motivating factors for people to exercise. In their experiment, researchers found that people who made a specific plan to exercise were significantly more likely to follow through with their plans.

Clear’s post is interesting, and he included several other individual studies on breast self-exams, healthy eating and vitamins that illustrate his point. I also was happy to see that he also included a systematic review. The meta-analysis was published in the Psychological Bulletin in 2006. It synthesized the evidence from 47 randomized, controlled studies where participants were assigned to state their intentions to complete a specific action, and compared to control groups who did not state their intentions.

The researchers who wrote the review concluded that making a commitment to action consistently results in behavior change.

Are you interested in using this concept in your own life?  It’s certainly easy to implement. If you want to improve your diet, commit to eating two servings of vegetables at dinner every night.  Want to improve your fitness? Write down a regular workout schedule that includes specific information about when and where you will exercise. The take-home message is clear: Making a plan for changing your behavior is the best way to follow through on your intentions.


  1. Mary says:

    In research paper they say that a pure motivation doesn’t matter much. It may be over-generalization though – because for motivating they used a speech about heart disease, but maybe desires to be fitter or to reduce is stress level are better-motivating factors for exercising.

  2. Wesley says:

    Very interesting, I’m a fan of Clear’s work so good to see it being used some more.

  3. Leon says:

    Great post about how to reach goals. I struggle with motivation all the time! Thanks for the info

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