When we focus on progress made, we’re also more likely to try to achieve a sense of “balance” by making progress on other important goals. This is classic Good Starter behavior – lots of pots on the stove, but nothing is ever ready to eat.
If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened. Fundamentally, this has to do with the way our brains are wired. We are tuned in (below our awareness) to the presence of a discrepancy between where we are now and where we want to be. When your brain detects a discrepancy, it reacts by throwing resources at it: attention, effort, deeper processing of information, and willpower.
In fact, it’s the discrepancy that signals that an action is needed – to-date thinking masks that signal. You might feel good about the ground you’ve covered, but you probably won’t cover much more.