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Does Motivation Play a Major Role in the Psychology of Changing Behavior?

Whether or not we succeed in making a behavioral change can depend on our motivation.

Most of us have something we would like to change, whether it’s quitting smoking, going to the gym more often, or drinking fewer cups of coffee in the morning. But what determines whether or not we succeed in changing our behaviors? One of the key factors is our personal motivation. In fact, research suggests that motivation is the most significant predictor of whether we make a successful change.*

What is motivation, exactly?

Motivation is anything that drives us to take action. Our motivations can come from internal desires, such as wanting to write a novel or earn a degree. They can also stem from external sources, such as a doctor telling us our health depends on losing weight. Some motivations can have both internal and external impetuses. Any reason to change can be considered a motivation as long as it’s propelling us forward and giving us reason to push through obstacles such as fatigue, boredom, distraction, and stress.

Does Motivation Play a Major Role in the Psychology of Changing Behavior?

How do you find motivation?

Motivation can come from any number of emotions. We might want to make a change because we are afraid our behaviors will harm us or our relationships. Or we might want to make a change because we are passionate about embracing a new task. The possibilities are endless, which means our lives are full of motivations. The real question is:

How do we avoid losing motivation?

We’ve all been there. In fact, it’s a normal part of human behavior. We commit to making a change and, a week later, we’re back to our old habits. What happened? It’s possible that our motivation wasn’t strong enough. But it’s also possible that we didn’t properly harness the potential of our motivation.

Wanting to change is just the beginning. We have to follow that up with a plan of action and a reasonable set of goals. If you want to lose weight, you need to consider how you will lose weight. What exercises will you do? How often will you do them? Will you also count calories? How will you make sure you remember to do so for every meal? Will you measure your success by measuring your weight, or will you measure inches around your waist? Are your goals in line with what’s healthy and physiologically possible? Is your plan reasonable given the constraints of your other commitments?

Without a plan of action, taking action is quite difficult. Likewise, without reasonable goals, success is hard to achieve and impossible to measure. Motivation by itself is just fuel. The plan and objectives you create are the vehicle that will move you forward.

Where can you learn more about human behavior?

Human behavior is one of the principal focuses of psychology. If you want to understand more about behavior, and possibly even help others to reach new goals, earning a BS in Psychology may be a great choice for your life. The question is: do you have the motivation to complete a psychology degree?

Choosing an online university with a reputable school of psychology is a great option when it comes to balancing your education along with life’s other priorities. In fact, when you earn your bachelor’s in psychology online, you can avoid upending your life. Instead of attending classes at a specific location and at specific times, you can enjoy a level of flexibility better suited for your busy life. Simply put, you can be a psychology major without the major hassles inherent in campus-based programs.

The convenience and opportunities you’ll encounter at an online university can make earning your BS in Psychology more possible. It’s a great way to learn about human behavior and improve your knowledge and career opportunities.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online BS in Psychology program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*J. Taylor, Personal Growth: Motivation: The Drive to Change, Psychology Today, on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,