Yale School of Management

Prof. Ayelet Fishbach on Maintaining Motivation and Achieving Your Goals

Becton Fellowship Program

By Karen Guzman

Maintaining strong motivation in the face of a challenge is one of the crucial ingredients in success, according to Ayelet Fishbach, visiting professor of behavioral science and marketing at the Yale School of Management.

The question, Fishbach told Yale SOM students during a talk on February 27, is: How do we maintain motivation?

The Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Fishbach’s research explores successful strategies for setting goals, sustaining motivation over time, and overcoming temptation.

Fishbach spoke at Yale SOM as part of the Becton Fellowship Program, which bring practitioners from private and public institutions to campus to share their insights with faculty and students.

Fishbach gave an overview of her research on the nature of motivation, discussing goal-setting, sustaining motivation, cultivating self-control, and the role of social support.

People are more likely to achieve goals when the benefits are intrinsic, and they enjoy the process of pursuing them, Fishbach said. An example would be a runner with a goal of completing a marathon, who also happens to enjoy training every day. It also helps to frame goals in terms of “what to do” to achieve them, rather than “what not to do.”

“Doing something is easier than trying to inhibit your tendency,” Fishbach said.

Studies into sustaining motivation show that people tend to be most motivated at the start of working toward a goal and when nearing the finish line. “Motivation increases as people approach the goal,” Fishbach said. “Slacking in the middle” is the big danger.

Appropriate feedback can help. Positive feedback helps people learn and increases motivation better than negative feedback, which has been shown to have the opposite effect, Fishbach said.

Exercising self-control in the face of temptation is another important element in maintaining motivation. It helps to anticipating temptation in advance and boost motivation, perhaps by reminding yourself of the goal and its importance, Fishbach said. Levying self-directed fines or rewards is helpful, as is adopting an avoidance approach.

Last, Fishbach addressed the power of social support in maintaining motivation. Working with others, as well as working in the presence of others, increases motivation.

“Feeling known”—a sense that you are understood—predicts success in relationships and other collective settings, Fishbach said. Because great undertakings are usually performed in groups, this insight is particularly useful in the workplace. “We want to get people to understand how to work with others,” Fishbach said. “Social support is important.”

About the Event

The ability to motivate yourself is what sets high achievers apart. Ayelet Fishbach’s research in the behavioral science explores some successful strategies for setting goals, sustaining motivation over time, and overcoming temptation.  She will further explore the role of feedback and social support in successful goal achievement.

This event is open to the Yale community. Registration is required.

The Becton Fellowship Program was established at the Yale School of Management in 1980 by Becton, Dickinson & Co., a leading global medical instruments supplier, in honor of Henry P. Becton ’37 B.S., company chairman (1961-1987), to bring practitioners from private and public institutions to share their professional insights with faculty and students.

Event tags

Speakers

Ayelet Fishbach

Ayelet Fishbach

Visiting Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing

Ayelet Fishbach studies social psychology, management and consumer behavior. She is an expert on motivation and decision making. Fishbach has authored over 100 publications. Her research has been published in psychology, management and marketing...

Ayelet Fishbach studies social psychology, management and consumer behavior. She is an expert on motivation and decision making. Fishbach has authored over 100 publications. Her research has been published in psychology, management and marketing journal and is regularly featured in the media, including WSJ, CNN, Chicago Tribune, NPR and the New York Times. Fishbach has served as an action editor on several journals, including Psychological Science and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. She has further served as the president of the International Social Cognition Network and she is the president elect of the Society for the Study of Motivation. Fishbach is the recipient of several international awards, including the Society of Experimental Social Psychology's Best Dissertation Award, Career Trajectory Award, and the Fulbright Educational Foundation Award.

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