Does External Motivation Work?


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Most use external motivation to help them achieve some big goal in life, such as running a marathon, losing 30 pounds, or to pass some test. There is a lot of debate over external motivation. Some argue it does not lead to long-term changes in habits and behaviors. Others argue that it can completely change your life. So, who’s right?

They are both partially right. External motivation works in altering your habits and behaviors but only when that external motivation is long enough for the habits you created to stick.

What is long enough? According to the famous University London study on habits, it could take as long as 254 days to form a habit. If your big goal requires less than 254 days to accomplish then it is likely the habits you forged during the goal-seeking process will not stick. So, if you want to forge long-term habits you need to set big goals that will require at least 254 days to accomplish.

It’s neurological. It takes 254 days in order for the neural pathway inside your brain to become so strong that the brain (basal ganglia) marks the synapse (brain cells talking to each other) as a habit. Once brain cells are designated as habits by the basal ganglia, a habit is forged. And it will never go away – ever. Brain cells marked as habits will stay with you until the day you die.

So, set big goals. Goals that require at least 254 days to accomplish. Otherwise, all of the habits you created in order to make that goal a reality will eventually fade away, replaced by older habits.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley understands the difference between being rich and poor: at age nine, his family went from being multi-millionaires to broke in just one night, due to a catastrophic fire that destroyed his Dad's thriving business. For fourteen years they struggled with poverty. There were eleven in Tom's family, and they lived in constant fear of losing their home.

Driven by the desire to unlock the secrets to success and failure, Tom spent five years studying the daily activities of 233 rich people and 128 poor people. He discovered there was an immense difference between the habits of the rich and the poor. During his research he identified over 300 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” Tom decided to write a book to share what he learned. That book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals (1st Edition), went on to become an Amazon Bestseller in the United States forty times over a three year period. To give you some perspective, in order to be a true Amazon Bestseller in the United States, where you actually receive a specific Bestseller designation from Amazon, you need to be in the top 100 of all books sold by Amazon in the United States in a given day. Rich Habits did that for nearly thirty straight days, rising as high as #7, eclipsing such Bestselling authors such as Stephen Covey, Robert Kiyosaki and J.K. Rowlings. Imagine that - an unknown, first-time, self-published author selling more books than J.K. Rowlings!

Tom now travels the world, sharing his Rich Habits and motivating audiences at industry conferences, corporate events, universities, multi-level marketing group events, and global sales organizations’ presentations and finance conferences. He has even spoken on the same stage with famous entrepreneurs and personal development experts, such as Sir Richard Branson, Robin Sharma, Dr. Daniel Amen, and many others.

Tom has shared his insights on various national and international network, cable, and Internet television programs such as CBS Evening News, NBC News, Yahoo Financially Fit,, India TV, Australia, and a host of others. He has been interviewed on many prestigious nationally syndicated radio shows, including the Dave Ramsey Show, Marketplace Money, and WABC.

Tom has been featured in numerous print magazines—such as Money magazine, Inc. Magazine, SUCCESS Magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, Fast Company magazine, More magazine, Epoca Magazine (Brazil’s largest weekly) and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine—and various online publications, including USA Today, CNN, MSN Money,,, and the Huffington Post. Tom is a frequent contributor to Business Insider,, and a few other media outlets.

National publicity has garnered international media attention for Tom and his Rich Habits research spanning 23 countries. Broadcast media, online publications, and television throughout Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Central and South America have shared his powerful message.

In an effort to help parents, grandparents, teachers and adults become success mentors to the younger generation, Tom released his second book, Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to be Happy and Successful in Life in 2014. This book was the self-help category winner of the 2015 New York Book Festival and Runner-up in the prestigious 2015 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest. In 2016 Tom released his third book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. This book provides the latest science on habit change as well as more of Tom's unique research on the specific habits that helped transform 177 ordinary individuals into self-made millionaires.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, and hold a master’s degree in taxation. As president of Cerefice and Company, CPAs, Tom heads one of the premier financial firms in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Tom, I’m not so sure your comments were on the mark this time. Most of the commentary I’ve read regarding “habits” and their creation points to a time frame of about 30 days for the synaptic connections to be formed in the brain. Now you may only have a “little thread” of a connective link, but the connection should be formed after about 30 days. After 254 days, the thread should have wound itself into a thick cable of a habit. I have witnessed this first hand in my own life when I “decided” to form a new and better habit, so I know it to be true…for me at least. Thanks.

    • It depends on the habit Kevin. According to the University London habit study it can take anywhere from 18-254 days. The more complex the habit, the more time it will take for the habit to form. When you stack habits (add a new habit to an existing habit) the habit formation process can be immediate, depending on how you use the existing habit as a trigger. For example, I added drinking water (new habit) every time I got up to get a cup of coffee (old habit). I put my coffee cup (trigger) on the water cooler. It took about 3 days for my new habit to stick. I decided to add reading (new habit) to my stairmaster exercise habit (old habit). I set up a stand in front of my stairmaster and put a book on the stand. My new habit (reading) became an immediate habit. One day is all it took. The book on the stairmaster became the trigger.

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