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Category Archive: goals

The Ostrich Problem

spc312071-fig-0001‘The Ostrich Problem’: Motivated Avoidance or Rejection of Information About Goal Progress


By Thomas L. Webb, Betty Chang, Yael Benn


Abstract: Monitoring one’s current standing with respect to goals can promote effective self-regulation. However, the present review suggests that there is an ostrich problem such that, in many instances, people have a tendency to “bury their head in the sand” and intentionally avoid or reject information that would help them to monitor their goal progress. For example, people with diabetes avoid monitoring their blood glucose, and few people monitor their household energy consumption, check their bank balances, keep track of what they are eating and so on. While situational constraints can explain some problems with progress monitoring, we use a self-motives framework to posit that the decision to avoid monitoring often represents the product of an interaction between different motives. For example, the desire to accurately assess progress may conflict with the desire to protect or enhance the self. The present review collates evidence pertaining to the ostrich problem, identifies different motives that underlie the decision to monitor versus not monitor goal progress, illustrates how the ostrich problem might be integrated into models of self-regulation, and provides suggestions for future research. In so doing, the review advances our understanding of the nature and determinants of intentionally deficient monitoring.


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Remove obstacles

Making progress in meaningful work is one of the most motivating factors for employees. Therefore, it is important to talk about and to describe desired and achieved progress, frequently. But did you know that negative occurrences such as setbacks and failures can have a  2 to 3 times stronger (negative) effect on motivation than positive factors? This was shown in a study by Amabile and Kramer.

Because negative events can have such a strong negative impact it is important to, whenever you can, prevent and take away any disturbing factors. Managers play an important role  in this. As a manager, by removing obstacles, you can enable motivated employees to make the progress they want to make. Here are four examples of such obstacles: Click here to read more »

Define ‘meaningful’

In 5 steps to harness the progress principle I mentioned the research finding that progress in meaningful work is extremely motivating. In other words, the more you think that your work contributes to what is valuable to you, the more motivating it will be for you to achieve progress in this work. To speak of meaningful work, means to go beyond a simple  task or results focus. To do meaningful work means that, as an employee, you have the feeling that completing the task or achieving the results is linked to an underlying purpose that is valuable to you. Here is an example.
Click here to read more »

Extrinsic vs. intrinsic aspirations and job burnout

MH900423044Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach
Maree Roche & Jarrod M. Haar


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of leaders’ life goals on their work related wellbeing. Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts aspirations (life goals) pursued in terms of personal growth, health, affiliation and community support psychological wellbeing, while aspirations of wealth, image and fame thwart wellbeing. However, little is understood about the influence of life goals towards leaders’ wellbeing at work, specifically job burnout. Click here to read more »

A growth mindset makes people focus more on the desired future

Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality
A. Timur Sevincer, Lena Kluge, Gabriele Oettingen (2013)


Abstract: People’s beliefs concerning their abilities differ. Incremental theorists believe their abilities (e.g., intelligence) are malleable; entity theorists believe their abilities are fixed (Dweck in Mindset: the new psychology of success. Random House, New York, 2007). On the basis that incremental theorists should emphasize improving their abilities for the future, whereas entity theorists should emphasize demonstrating their abilities in the present reality, we predicted that, when thinking about their wishes, compared to entity theorists, incremental theorists focus more toward the desired future than the present reality. We assessed participants’ motivational focus using a paradigm that differentiated how much they chose to imagine the desired future versus the present reality regarding an important wish (Kappes et al. in Emotion 11: 1206–1222, 2011). We found the predicted effect by manipulating (Study 1) and measuring implicit theories (Study 2), in the academic (Study 1) and in the sport domain (Study 2).

Providing a rationale as a motivational strategy

rationaleProviding a Rationale in an Autonomy-Supportive Way as a Strategy to Motivate Others During an Uninteresting Activity
2002, Johnmarshall Reeve, Hyungshim Jang, Pat Hardre, and Mafumi Omura


Abstract: When motivating others during uninteresting activities, people typically use extrinsic contingencies that promote controlling forms of extrinsic motivation. In contrast, we investigated a motivational strategy that could support another person’s capacity to personally endorse and value the effort he or she put forth during the uninteresting activity. That strategy is the provision of an externally provided rationale when communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. In two studies, we tested and found support for a motivational mediation model, based on selfdetermination theory, in which the presence of such a rationale (vs. its absence) adds to participants’ identification with the task’s personal value which, in turn, explains participants’ subsequent effort. These studies suggest that extrinsically motivated behaviors can become self-determined through the process of identification and that the promotion of this identification experience depends on the presence of a rationale that is communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. Read full article.

The more useful the helper, the greater the appreciation of the beneficiary

appreciation of helpInstrumentality Boosts Appreciation: Helpers Are More Appreciated While They Are Useful

Benjamin A. Converse and Ayelet Fishbach


Abstract: We propose that in social interactions, appreciation of a helper depends on that helper’s instrumentality: The more motivated one is to accomplish a goal, and the more one perceives a helper as able to facilitate that goal, the more appreciation one will feel for that helper. Four experiments supported this instrumentality-boost hypothesis by showing that beneficiaries felt more appreciation of their helpers while they were receiving help toward an ongoing task than after that task was completed or after the helper was deemed no longer instrumental. This finding held for both the positive side of appreciation (gratitude) and the negative side (feelings of indebtedness) and also across a range of relationships (complete strangers, newly acquainted partners, and friends). This pattern of appreciation is counterintuitive for helpers, and so a mismatch arises between the time courses of beneficiaries’ experienced appreciation and helpers’ expectations of appreciation.

Advising someone to act in a certain way may make it less likely that you yourself will act in that way

In an upcoming article two researchers from the University of Texas will present evidence for a counterintuitive phenomenon that when people give goal related advice they themselves may become less likely to act according to that advice. The proposed mechanism behind this is that giving advice leads to vicarious goal progress if the advice giver perceives a high likelihood that that the advice will be followed.

Note: Yesterday I uploaded a draft version of their article without realizing that the article was still a work in progress. I will keep you posted about this reasearch and I’ll give more details when the finalized article will be published.

A goal focus may motivate more to make further progress than an accomplishment focus

Eyes on the prize: The longitudinal benefits of goal focus on progress toward a weight loss goal


Authors: Kyle E. Conlona, Joyce Ehrlingera, Richard P. Eibachb, A. William Crescionia, Jessica L. Alquista, Mary A. Gerendc, Gareth R. Duttonc (2011)


Abstract: Past research suggests that focusing on what has not yet been accomplished (goal focus) signals a lack of progress towards one’s high commitment goals and inspires greater motivation than does focusing on what has already been accomplished (accomplishment focus). The present investigation extends this research to a longitudinal, important domain by exploring the consequences of focusing on one’s goals versus accomplishments when pursuing a weight loss goal. Participants were tracked over the course of a 12-week weight loss program that utilized weekly group discussions and a companion website to direct participants’ focus toward their end weight loss goal or toward what they had already achieved. Goal-focused participants reported higher levels of commitment to their goal and, ultimately, lost more weight than did accomplishment-focused and no focus control participants. Accomplishment-focused participants did not differ from controls on any measure.

Life-management strategies and progress

Implementation planning and progress on physical activity goals: the mediating role of life-management strategies


Dugas M, Gaudreau P, Carraro N. (2012)


Abstract: This 4-week prospective study examined whether the use of life-management strategies mediates the relationship between implementation planning and short-term progress on physical activity goals. In particular the strategies of elective selection, compensation, and loss-based selection [here is an explanation of those terms] were disentangled to assess their specific mediating effects. Results from a sample of 131undergraduate students showed that, as a composite, life-management strategies fully mediated the relationship between planning and goal progress. More specifically, decomposing the effects demonstrated that only elective selection and compensation mediated the association between planning and greater progress on a personal physical activity goal. Results are discussed in light of their practical implications and contributions to the personal goal literature.

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