Lazy people can motivate themselves by giving advice

Lack motivation? A new study out of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business suggests you can spur yourself into action by advising someone else.

Professor Ayelet Fishbach and her team even found that, contrary to popular belief, giving guidance is more beneficial than receiving it.

“In the process of giving advice, advisors may form specific intentions and lay out concrete plans of action — both of which increase motivation and achievement,” she wrote.

Fishbach is due to publish her findings in the journal Psychological Science — her research was assisted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Angela Duckworth.

The trio found that people struggling to achieve goals incorrectly assumed they needed expert advice to succeed, when, in fact, they were better helped by doling out suggestions themselves.

The results were consistent across a series of experiments that included saving money, losing weight, improving study habits, controlling tempers and looking for jobs.

The researchers say the reason that giving advice may boost motivation starts from a bump in confidence. The effect of simply being asked to contribute to the discussion is beneficial.

“In order to give advice, you need to sort through your thoughts and make a recommendation,” Fishbach says. “That requires givers to search their own brains for examples of behavior that have worked successfully for them in the past — an exercise likely to boost confidence.”

In one experiment, the researchers asked a group of middle-schoolers to give advice to younger students about staying motivated in school. They asked another group to get advice from a teacher about the same thing.

The group giving advice studied for their vocabulary tests nearly 40 percent more time than those who received advice from a teacher.

It’s believed the results could have implications for programs that promote academic achievement, weight loss and better job performance.

“We hope our findings, which illuminate the motivational power of giving, do just that: goad scientists and practitioners to consider the ways in which struggling individuals benefit from giving,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, our research provides empirical support for an age-old aphorism: It is in giving that we receive.”

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