Pick one: small and insignificant victories, or large and substantial victories I wrote The List recently, in an attempt to help me focus on things that move me closer to my goals. It's a lot easier to sit around and dream than it is to make things happen.
I am really quite terrible at forcing myself to do things I don't want to do. Especially without tangible goals.
You can expend your motivation on significant things or insignificant things. In fact, if you're not careful, you will have to spend it on insignificant things. Lets just think of a few of the goals most Americans have: eat better, exercise more (or "get in shape"), and spend less. How many situations do you encounter every day where you have to make a decision to move toward a goal, or give in to temptation?
Every time you eat, every time you purchase something (purchasing unhealthy food gets you thrice - healthy eating, getting in shape, and spending less are all contradicted by that one choice.), every time you decide how to spend your time, you are either making a decision, or running on habit.
If you want to eat healthier, spend less, and get in shape, you can eat a certain number of "healthy" meals a week, live within a budget (not a simple task) and do a certain number of workouts a week. If you're doing all three of those things, then, if you want, you can eat fast food without wrecking your goals.
Habits lead to substantial improvement. Or destroy your goals.
The power of habit is easy for me to see in my life - every time I open up a web browser, my left hand almost instinctively type in "fa" while my right hand hits enter. This brings my right to Facebook. It happens sometimes without me ever noticing. All of a sudden, twenty minutes are gone, before I've even noticed that I'm not doing whatever I got on my computer to do. Wow.
Changing habits is hard. So hard that you can't do it if you're just trying to brute force your way into habit acquisition. If you spend time learning things that matter, the rest of your life is improved.
Do things that matter.