red flag on mountain and clouds sky

You probably have some long-term life goals. Goals to become CEO, or goals to own a house, or goals to save enough money for a new car. And you also probably have smaller day-to-day goals, like making more of an effort to make your bed before you leave for work, or cleaning the cat’s litter box more often. Big or small, goals are wonderful because they keep us motivated to be our best selves. But those are a lot of goals. And we’re just humans living our human lives. And sometimes it feels like the things we want to accomplish for ourselves are out of reach.

See, when it comes to your goals, there’s always this question: How can I make my dreams actually come true? Well, lucky for us, science has an answer.

The Journal of Consumer Research released a new study proving that perspective is key. Using a coffeehouse and bagel store’s rewards program (because who doesn’t love those handy-dandy rewards cards?), researchers examined the “small-area hypothesis.” This theory takes a look at the easiest way for one to accomplish their goals.

“We predict that individuals will express greater motivation to pursue actions when they focus on whichever is smaller in size – the area of their completed actions or of their remaining actions – because motivation increases with the perceived impact of each new step, and each new step will appear more impactful if compared to a smaller set of other steps toward the goal,” the researchers explained.

For the experiment, customers were given different loyalty programs. One focused on telling consumers how much progress they have already made, by emphasizing the number of purchases they’ve made in the past. In this case, the size of their remaining progress was greater than the size of their completed progress – but the program did not focus on this disparity and instead praised them for what they’ve completed thus far. As for the other program, it showed users their remaining progress, which – in this case – was the smaller area because they’d accumulated many rewards.

“For participants who were closer to getting a reward, an emphasis on remaining progress (small area) increased motivation more than on completed purchases (large area),” stated the study’s authors. The same thing happened for the other participants: they were just as motivated when focusing on the completed purchases (small area), rather than the remaining progress (which was the larger area in this scenario).

In other words, focusing on whichever area is smaller will make you more motivated to complete your goals. Even if you have a long way to go before you reach your goal, you should concentrate on all the headway you’ve made so far. Then, when you aren’t separated from your goal by a vast distance, you should feel excited that you’ve come so far.

The takeaway: be proud of all that you’ve accomplished… Because science says so.

[Image via iStock]