– How unfulfilled goals persist in the mind.
We’ve all done it, how many times have we told ourselves this week we will clear out the garage, write an article for our business, do our accounts and failed to do them, only to find that they prey on the mind – especially when we are trying to sleep!
Psychologists EJ Masicampo and Roy Baumeister both study how our minds behave around goal setting and self control. This relates not only to doing things for one’s business, but also with activities such as weight loss. Those who fail to plan, do we discover plan to fail.
The psychologists found that unfinished goals caused intrusive thoughts during an unrelated reading task, high mental accessibility of goal-related words and poor performance on an unrelated anagram task, showing that when we are carrying the information even subconsciously in our minds, we find our focus and attention is poor. If their experiment subjects were allowed to draw up specific plans for their unfulfilled goals they eliminated interference effects, and the subjects were much more likely to fulfill that goal, and the tasks became easy to manage.
They found that committing to a specific plan for a goal not only facilitated attainment of the goal but may also freed cognitive resources for other pursuits. Once a plan was made, the drive to attain the goal is suspended, this allowed the goal-related cognitive activity to cease and the goal could be resumed at the specified later time.
Often when clients come to see me about sleep related problems it’s usually because their brains are reminding them of all the things they have to do for the next day – they seem rather surprised that the answer is to write it down in a diary – this offloads the thought. I always encourage clients to write down 3 things that have been good that day, this puts you in a more positive mood for sleep.
So why does this also work for weight loss? Well the psychologists found that self control and decision making rely on a shared and limited source of energy – the brain is like a battery, if you put a lot of information in, it has a limit to what it can achieve. So those who exert their minds trying to keep all these goals in their minds – such as I must eat healthy food today, as soon as they are confronted with a taxing mental task are much more likely to give in to eating unhealthy food. One they have succumbed to the first unhealthy food their subconscious then gives up on the whole idea – usually with subconscious talk such as “You have no self control or will power”.
It has been shown that if we want to make things happen, we need to a) plan it out first – writing it down and b) sharing that information with another – so that we are accountable for that task. C) Use motivation to work towards the goal, not self depreciation and beating ourselves up for not doing that task again.
So what am I planning this week? Well I’m working, but not seeing clients this week, all my focus is on admin, writing and planning my next 3 months. Whether I go away on holiday to chill for a week or two, I always plan in work breaks away from clients where I can plan my next quarter, update my admin, accounts and sort out anything coming up, so the rest of the time I can give all my attention to helping my clients attain their goals.
What are you now planning for the week ahead?