Ever had an important goal, but while pursuing this goal, you found yourself taking some actions that are inconsistent with this goal? As an example, maybe you want to lose weight, and you decided to go to the gym, but after hard training, you found yourself eating junk food? Or you wanted to study something, but after the first chapter, you found yourself hanging out with friends. Ever passed through a similar situation?
O.k let me give you even another example, ever wanted to do something, but instead of doing it directly now, you planned to do it in the future but never did it?
Why do we behave like this? Aren’t we serious in pursuing our goals?
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Now let us go back to the question ‘’why do we behave like this?
People usually try to pursue not only one goal but a lot of goals. And they try to pursue them in parallel and not sequential. They do not wait until they accomplish one goal and then pursue the next one, they pursue several goals at the same time. And sometimes these goals are not aligned together.
We have higher priority goals such as saving for the future and retirement, but at the same time, we have lower-order goals such as traveling on vacations to see the world. We want to be in shape, but we also want to enjoy a piece of chocolate or pizza. We want to work longer to earn more status or money, but we want to have fun with our family and friends also. So how to handle this conflict without giving in to temptations that are not in favor of our main goals or in other words why we always lose when we face this conflict? Why we always lose the pursuit of the higher priority goals in favor of the immediate-gratification lower order goals?
To answer this question AYELET FISHBACH & RAVI DHAR, two professors at the university conducted four studies and published their findings in the journal of consumer research in December 2005. Their findings explained the reason for this behavior and summarized it in 2 words: ‘’Goal liberation’’.
But what is goal liberation and what is its impact on achieving our goals?
When we take action to achieve a specific important goal, this action makes us feel that we made progress, and this focus on the progress tends to liberate us and makes us shift our focus to activities and actions of another goal that we have even if this other goal conflicts with our first important goal.
You want to save for retirement, so you open a savings account, so you feel that you made progress, so you go and pay for a vacation. Or you want to be more productive and finish more tasks, so you write a to-do list. This to-do list makes you feel that you made progress, and accordingly, you relax and do not accomplish all that you need to accomplish on your list. Or when you want to learn something new, and you buy a new book. This makes you feel progress, and this feeling makes you put the book on the shelf and neglect it for the next three months.
This is how goal liberation negatively impacts your performance. But this is not everything because the studies showed two other things.
They showed that through social comparison individuals might acquire feedback on their relative goal progress, which increases their tendency to switch to alternative objectives. And, they also found out that overoptimistic evaluations can lead people to overestimate their future goal progress, and consequently they are more likely to select inconsistent actions when considering future as opposed to past goal progress.
So, what is the solution for this?
You must focus on your commitment to your long-term focal goals instead of focusing on your progress. If you are going to the gym to lose weight, for example, you must remember that your primary goal is not to go to the gym today but losing weight in the long term.
After a training session instead of saying to yourself ‘’I am proud because I trained hard today, and I deserve to have a fat meal or reward myself’’, say to yourself ‘’I am proud because I trained hard today, and this conveys my commitment to my main target which is to lose 10 kg's which I did not achieve still.’’
Now it is your turn to share with me your story. What are your goals and what do you do when a conflict between your goals happens? Let me know in the comments section below.
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