This paper examines the reasons for study of adult beginner distance learners of Spanish and the relationships between those reasons and motivation maintenance. A survey of 563 Open University UK students found motivational orientations distinct from those of young people in earlier studies. Adult learners who maintained their motivation also demonstrated a greater number of reasons for study. Their motivation embraced intrinsic and extrinsic, integrative and instrumental orientations, short-term and long-term ambitions, and an L2 self both ideal and realistically attainable. During their course module they focused more consistently than others on the language skills they had targeted, and expressed increased enjoyment of the learning experience. This study suggests that achieving ‘softer’ short-term goals encourages persistence towards longer-term goals which reflect the ideal L2 self.