Research suggests we may benefit from phrasing our goals in a speculative way: “Will I?” rather than “I will.” — this is called the Willpower Paradox.
Declarative self-talk (“I will”) is more likely to be linked to extrinsically motivated goals. Using interrogative self-talk (“Will I?”) allows for more time to build intrinsic motivation.
By switching from declarative self-talk to interrogative self-talk, we can consider whether we really want to achieve that goal. If the answer is yes, intrinsic motivation makes us more likely to succeed.
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Without realising it, many of our goals originate from an external source, whether it’s societal pressure, the desire to get a promotion at work, or the fear of being judged.
Next time you want to set a new goal, keep an open mind and ask yourself: “Will I?” As strange as it may feel, treating the future as an open question will increase your intrinsic motivation and thus your chances of achieving your goals.
When asked about their intention to exercise, participants in one of the experiments who were primed by writing “Will I?” tended to give intrinsically motivated reasons (“Because I feel that I want to take responsibility for my own health”), whereas the ones primed by writing “I will” tended to give extrinsically motivated reasons (“Because I would feel guilty or ashamed of myself if I did not”).