Frustration to Motivation


Motivation drives success. But, what drives motivation? Specifically, what drives our motivation after we miss a goal or deadline?

When you become frustrated with your progress, does it increase your willpower – “I’m going to do this no matter what!” – Or does it reduce your willpower – “Why don’t I do what I know I should?”

Understanding what drives motivation after a setback can help us regain and keep daily momentum or motivation. If your willpower drops after a setback, you are probably suffering from the limit violation effect.

The limit violation effect occurs when we set goals for ourselves, don’t meet them, feel bad about ourselves and the result is a reduction in your willpower. While not everyone experiences this, many do and this can lead to a struggle to stay motivated and a significant reduction in productivity. If this is a problem for you, here are three things you can do to overcome it:

Step 1: Slow down

The first step in overcoming the limit violation effect is by realizing that it is happening. Simply being aware that this is influencing you can increase your feelings of self-control and improve willpower. Take a deep breath and analyze how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel like getting back to work after missing a goal, continue to step two.

 Step 2: Look at the big picture

Remember you’re not alone. You’re part of a family, a team and a population that makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Missing a deadline isn’t the end of the world. Reevaluate the true impact of what you did and figure out if it’s really worth the stress you’re putting yourself through. Once you’ve established some perspective, move on to step three.

Step 3: Forgive yourself

The last step to getting back on track is to forgive yourself. There is great research to show that increasing “Self Compassion” increases willpower[1][2]. Realize that you’re only human and that being too hard on yourself for too long sabotages your willpower. It’s time to forgive yourself so you can move on from the mistake and move toward your goals again.

Remember, people who thrive in a high demand world are better at understanding “Why don’t I want to do what I know I should?” They are more meaning oriented, or big picture focused and are faster and better at forgiving their own mistakes, which enables them to consistently and efficiently move from frustration to motivation.

By following these three steps, you can turn around any negative momentum you may be experiencing. If you try these and are still experiencing a lack of willpower, stay tuned for my next tip on the 2-hour rule.

[1] Adams, C. E., Leary, M. R., (2007) Promoting Self-Compassionate Attitudes Toward Eating Among Restrictive and Guilty Eaters, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 10, 2007, pp. 1120–1144   [link: ]

[2] Neff, K. (2003). Self–compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101 [link: ]

Scroll to Top