Most self-help gurus will tell you that if you want to motivate yourself to do something focus on all the benefits you’ll gain from taking action. However, if you’re procrastinating current research suggests that a very different approach may be even more helpful. A specific kind of negative thinking and feeling may be much more motivating than a positive feeling.
Researchers assembled 229 people with gym memberships and asked half of them to think about how much they might regret not going to the gym. The other group was asked how much they intended to go to the gym.
They then measured how much both groups exercised after two weeks.
The group that was asked how much they would regret not exercising exercised much more than the other group.
Why might this be?
Some researchers believe that anticipated regret may be more powerful than actual regrets. And I think that may be part of the reason anticipated regrets are such powerful motivators.
So next time you are hesitating about starting an important task – whether it’s going to the gym, writing an article or getting out of bed – think of how you’ll regret NOT taking action and you just may find yourself ready to get started.
British Journal of Social Psychology 2003 Dec;42(Pt 4):495-511.
Acting on intentions: the role of anticipated regret. Abraham C, Sheeran P.