Motivation through self-appraisal: The last six months vs the next six months

There is a lot of discussion in psychology about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, and most of us tend to look outside of ourselves for validation of what we do.

A pay rise, more status, a company car are all examples of these extrinsic rewards – but it seems the more powerful and longer rewards are intrinsic – true job satisfaction and pride in your work. So as managers and people striving to do our best, how do we manage to shift our focus away from those sometimes distracting extrinsic rewards and enhance the effect of the intrinsic ones?

Do a six month self-appraisal

Like most things – the first step is to increase awareness. The aim is to increase your self-awareness of accomplishments and progress over six months, which can really be lost in a world of to-dos (instead of have-dones). The constant drive towards improving and fixing often causes us to lose sight of what we have actually managed to achieve. This is where the six month self-appraisal can work wonders.

First, draw up these five lists:

1. What did I plan to achieve in the last six months?

Cast your mind back six months to what you set out to do – full of enthusiasm and promise. What work or personal goals did you have at the start of January? Maybe things are different now, with new demands and experiences. This list may reflect what really motivates you.

2. What did I actually achieve in the last six months?

This is where the ideal meets the reality and it can be a little uncomfortable for some people. For others there will be a real surprise when you start to recall just how much you have managed to complete and grow in that time. Do you get a sense of accomplishment with this list?

3. What did I learn in the last six months?

This is a really important list, and often forgotten. The skill that we refer to as ‘wisdom’ requires us to avoid repeating our mistakes, to understand ourselves better and to move on from circular thinking and bad habits to new realities that give us new experiences.

This doesn’t have to refer to institutionalised learning or vocational skills – it can also be a list of things you learnt about how you handle stress, what your peak working conditions are, who you work best with (or don’t) – or maybe you realised something is more important to you than you previously realised.

4. What do I want to achieve in the next six months?

The importance of creating the other lists before this one is that it gives you a realistic context. Unrealistic goals that you don’t achieve can be really demotivating. If you look at what you have achieved and learned in the previous six months then you have a baseline of what to expect from yourself.

We often see with New Year resolutions that people go to extremes, list five or six highly ambitious goals and then lose their way by mid-February or even before January is out… because we have to be fully motivated at all times just to be on track. So with a frame of reality you can set achievable goals that can spur you on to achieving a lot more.

5. What rewards do I give myself – now for last six months and at end of next six months

We usually forget a very important step of planning: celebration. Far too often people use hard work as a reward. Although achieving job satisfaction and having a strong work ethic are great attributes, it’s so important to stop occasionally and to pat yourself on the back – away from work. Find something you really enjoy, congratulate yourself and give yourself a treat that you really deserve.

Now draw it up for the next six months. If you manage to achieve something then having a reward (perhaps a weekend away, a dinner at a high-end restaurant that you wouldn’t normally treat yourself to) are great ways of reinforcing your own behaviour and feel true satisfaction.

Build habits that give you personal perspective as well as the motivation to create self-directed change in your life. It’s a simple process – it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to go through this listing process, but it is powerful in that it gives you a platform to grow and achieve.


Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.


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