Motivation and planning a route to success

The power of motivation and creating specific behaviours and actions to accomplish your goals.

Sean Purcell

In my last article we talked about the power of visualisation. If you missed it please make sure to give it a read.

If you are to pass your exams more easily, tapping into the power of motivation is a great thing to do. Motivation is all about goal setting, and creating a visual of the goal you want to achieve is a useful technique. Rather than just being motivated by the phrase ‘I want to pass the exam’, creating a visual of what passing that exam will bring to you is far more powerful.

‘Your subconscious mind sometimes needs some small nudges to get started. Once it sees a bit of progress towards your goal, that actually creates a greater sense of motivation, which helps you to achieve even more progress’

Now I’ve got you thinking about motivation, there is another thing you must do if you are to be fully motivated, and that is to create and define clear, specific behaviours and actions that you’ll need to do to accomplish your goals.

Planning for success

Although motivation will help you in making progress towards your goal, your subconscious mind sometimes needs some small nudges to get started. Once it sees a bit of progress towards your goal, that actually creates a greater sense of motivation, which helps you to achieve even more progress. Therefore, to make this happen for your own study goals you need to define clearly what your actions are going to be.

If you have trouble getting started on this path, try breaking those tasks into smaller steps that require so little effort that you don’t resist them – but they still move you in the right direction. Then maybe do it again and, once you start to gain more confidence, you can make those tasks slightly longer or harder. As you continue with those small steps, your confidence and motivation will start to increase and continue to the point where they become self-sustaining.

A study into what made people exercise showed that, while many people are motivated to work out, those people who achieve their goals do one thing that makes them very different from everyone else. This is explained using the outcomes from an experiment documented in the British Journal of Psychology.

The experiment looked at the best way of improving exercise habits using three sample groups of people.

  • Group 1 (the control group) were asked to simply track how often they exercised.
  • Group 2 were not only asked to track their workouts but also to read some material on the benefits of exercise.
  • Group 3 received the same direction as Group 2, plus were asked to formulate a plan for exercise over the following week and complete the this sentence: ‘during the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (DAY) at (TIME) in (PLACE).’

When interpreting the results, performance was very similar for Groups 1 and 2 (around 35% exercised regularly), despite group 2 having been given motivational material. In group 3, however, over 90% exercised regularly.

Similar studies have shown that by simply writing down a plan that states exactly when and where you intend to do something, actual action is much more likely. Researchers have discovered that what pulls the desire out of you and turns it into real world action isn’t your level of motivation but your plan for implementation. Plans increase the odds that people will stick with habits like recycling, studying, going to sleep early and stopping smoking.

Therefore, to give yourself the best chance of exam success in September, follow the advice that is proven by psychological research.

What next?

Having read this article, I would like you to conduct the following exercise.

On a piece of paper, I would like you to complete the following sentence to give some structure to your actions and behaviours over the next couple of weeks.


Your list of statements may look something like this:


  • I will practise five minutes of mindfulness at 7am in my kitchen.
  • I will study standard costing for 30 minutes at 7.15am at my desk in the kitchen
  • I will bring my partner a cup of tea at 8am in the bedroom
  • I will study activity-based costing for 30 minutes at 8.15am at my desk in the kitchen
  • I will exercise for 60 minutes at 10am in the park
  • I will check my social media account for 20 minutes at 12pm in the sitting room

You should set out a clearly structured schedule for each day following the above approach, ensuring it is realistic and reviewing it regularly to check that you can stick to it.

So, there you have it – if you don’t plan out your behaviours, then you need to rely on willpower and motivation to inspire you to act and, as you know, this does not always happen.

The time to put this advice into action is not tomorrow, but today. Start with those small steps as I described above, building up to a point where it comes naturally.

I’ll write another article in a couple of weeks to see how you are progressing. Please let me know if this has helped you, or if you are having any problems in following this advice.

You can reach me via my LinkedIn account.

Sean Purcell BA ACMA CGMA is an ACCA expert tutor who regularly contributes to ACCA programmes around the world. He was recently voted 2020 lecturer of the year by PQ magazine.