Diagram: 6 Step Cycle of Motivation

motivation cycle in 6 steps


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“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” —Albert Einstein

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” —Confucius


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6 Steps of Motivation Explained

Step 1: Need for Payoffs (Rewards)

  • First, there has to be a need for a reward for motivation to begin. The above diagram calls rewards “payoffs” because it was designed for psychological rewards, but the diagram also works with physical and spiritual rewards.
  • If the feelings perceive there to be some imbalance (a lack of homeostasis), then a need for a return to balance is felt.
  • The reward or payoff needed is homeostasis; for example, “I look fat and am not at my normal and healthy weight.” The balance will be regained when the person returns to their normal (proportionate) weight (not too thin or too fat, so a healthy balance).

Step 2: Desire for Payoffs (Rewards)

  • The desire for a reward is different from a need for a reward. A need for a reward if often just a fact such as, “I need to lose weight to stay fit.” However, a desire for a reward provides emotional energy to pursue that reward, for example, “I want to lose weight, so I look fit.”
  • Now there is a desire in the form of an intention to fulfill the reward, “I intend to lose enough weight to be fit again.”

Step 3: Goals that Are Payoffs

  • The goals should be in line with their intentions. That is, the goals should be such that they will satisfy the intentions from the previous step. It is best if the goals are SMART goals.
  • SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-limited. For more information on SMART goals, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria. There you will find other terms for the SMART mnemonic/acronym that might better suit your needs. You can also use the suggestions to create a new list of words that better suits your goals and processes.
  • Now there are concrete goals to be met that will fulfill the intention of the previous step, “I will lose 2–3 pounds a week until I have lost a total of 38 pounds.”

Step 4: Plan to Get Payoffs

  • The intentions naturally follow from the goals of the previous step. Action steps are formulated to realize the goals of step three. If the action steps are followed without the required results, then the plans should be revised or discarded for better plans.
  • Now there are concrete steps to take in order to meet the goals that will assure your final result (homeostasis).
  • Some plans might include: walking to work instead of driving or walking part of the way; riding a bicycle around the neighborhood when you return from work; doing warmup and stretching exercises before you exercise; reducing sugar in your diet; eliminating white rice and bread from your diet by substituting brown rice and wholegrain bread (not processed brown bread because it is no better than processed white bread).
  • The author’s favorite diet plan is, “Eat less and exercise more.”

Step 5: Action to Get Payoffs

  • The actions (responses) to reach your rewards flow naturally from your plans. Here you do the work. Your Response and Feedback systems surround the work. Such intensity assures that the work is productive and malleable.
  • Now you check off doing what you said you would do each day. When you slip off or fail to follow your plan, you go back a step or two and make better plans for your lifestyle and motivation levels.

Step 6: Success of Getting Payoffs

  • This step gives you the experience you need to move forward and continue your journey of improving your health. This step is your “pat on the back.”
  • The event-sensations circle is activated at this level for new experiences. You experience weight loss. You find that you have more energy from exercising, not less. Friends and family begin to notice your weight loss and compliment you on it. You can fit into some of your old clothes that you still like.
  • Your positive experiences drive you to continue and even to experiment with doing more in a controlled and reasonable fashion. You add listening to audiobooks while walking to work to your practice routine. You consider attending a local yoga class during your lunch hour. You find and add chair exercises to your routine that you can do while working at your desk. You consider purchasing a desk that you can stand at when you work from home.

Related Pages

  1. More information on Attitude Is All You Need! Second Edition
  2. 3 Ps of Motivation
  3. Homeostasis Is Explained in Stress for Success, Second Edition
  4. Motivating Questions
  5. Stimulation as Motivation
  6. Will: The Basic Options for What to Will

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