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Category Archive: Progress-focused

Misconception 7: the concept of mindset is only about children

mindset ageImplicitly, many people still assume that learning and developing is primarily something  for when we are young and not so much for when we are adults, let alone for the elderly. In line with this assumption is the belief that the theory of mindset is mainly – perhaps even exclusively – relevant for children and adolescents. If this were true, knowledge about mindset would mainly be useful for education and parenthood. And while it is indeed very useful for these domains it is not true that mindsets are not relevant for adults and for old people. Mindset play an important role throughout our lives.  Click here to read more »

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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Why we don’t use the concept of the future perfect

The main inspiration for our progress-focused approach is the work by Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer and their colleagues of the Brief Family Therapy Center (read all about it here). These pioneers, building on the work of Milton Erickson, The Mental Research Institute, and others, developed the core of what is now known as solution-focused brief therapy.

We – and many other people – started applying the principles and techniques outside the context of psychotherapy, some 13 years ago. In recent years, we have started to call our approach ‘the progress-focused approach’. We are still indebted to the work by de Shazer, Berg and others but our approach has evolved in different directions than mainstream solution-focused work seems to have evolved. Click here to read more »

Discuss progress with each other

discussBy focusing on progress in meaningful work, your work experience and your performance are stimulated. It is useful to make explicit what progress you have achieved, for example by keeping a progress diary. If you don’t make progress explicit it may well be that you are not aware of the progress you are actually making. This is because progress can remain largely invisible if you don’t consciously focus on it. The reason for this is that we usually focus our conscious attention mainly on what has gone wrong and on what we still have to do. Progress which you have already made is thus easily overlooked. Click here to read more »

Focus on meaningful work

Harnessing the progress principle, requires that you, at least on several days of the week, make time to focus and work undisturbed, at least for half an hour to an hour, on work that is most meaningful for you.

In a new interview, Teresa Amabile says that in many organizations creative work is hampered by a continuous stream of demands and distractions which comes their way. She’s talking about emails, interruptions, deadlines, and the incessant pressure to be productive and creative. She compares working in many organizations with walking on a treadmill and suggests that in many organizations the speed of the treadmill has become higher and higher. Click here to read more »

The NOAM 7 steps approach of progress focused work

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.
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