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Discussion Forum > When S happens, I will R

Reading Succeed by Dr Halvorson. (back cover review "once every ten years or so, someone says something original in the area of personal development. Heidi Grant. Halvorson is that someone. )

Chapter 9 speaks of achieving basic goals by simple planning. According to a number of studies, people who make a specific plan for action - involving when, where, and how the gOal will be worked on- these are vastly more likely to achieve the goal than those who only have the goal.

Weekdays after breakfast, I will write for one hour.
If I have eaten 1500 calories todAy, I will stop eating.
When I think about ice-cream, I won't eat it.

These one sentence plans are not 100% effective, but are typically twice as effective as no plan at all! Studies show it works for sports, diet, addictions, studying, unconscious habits, etc.

Sounds exciting. Just wanted to share.
August 17, 2011 at 19:24 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Hm, S was an unfortunate letter choice for a variable name.
August 17, 2011 at 20:08 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Sounds interesting.

If it's available on Kindle, I will read it.
August 18, 2011 at 13:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
August 18, 2011 at 14:32 | Registered Commenteravrum
<<Succeed by Dr Halvorson>>

I flipped through this a few weeks ago. I'm not going to get into specifics, but I'm very skeptical when mental health professionals site studies to bolster their work. I've participated some of these, and the process, and results, are always skewed to secure funding and original thesis.

Within the self-help/biz genre, I find non-clinicians to be the most creative and helpful.
August 18, 2011 at 14:38 | Registered Commenteravrum
It is available on Kindle, so I will read it.
August 18, 2011 at 15:48 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This type of one-line formulation (When.. then… or If…then…) sounds very much like psychology researcher Peter Gollwitz’s implementation intentions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implementation_intention ).

I first ran across the idea in Timothy Pychyl’s procrastination blog “Don’t Delay” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay ) at the Psychology Today blogfarm. Pychyl gives a terrific explanation on implementation intentions, how to form them, and how they support self-regulation and goal intentions here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/201001/implementation-intentions-facilitate-action-control . This is a 2-page article.

The basic idea is that, with an i.i., you forestall potential trouble by deciding ahead of time what your behavior will be. By thinking ahead, you can plan to alter your environment or alter your attitude when you’re challenged to bail on your goal.

In relation to Alan’s initial post, I think i.i. supports overall goals as behavioral cues, but are not substitutes for the goals. (That’s my interpretation based on what I’ve read in this thread, but I could be wrong.)

Pychyl, by the way, is a Canadian professor of psychology with a research interest in procrastination as a failure of self-regulation. He maintains a web site dedicated to his group’s research (http://http-server.carleton.ca/~tpychyl/ ), anchors a podcast called iProcrastinate (http://iprocrastinate.libsyn.com/ and in iTunes), and has written an ebook called The Procrastinator’s Digest that’s available in Kindle and other formats.

The two big lessons I remember from his numerous columns and podcasts are: “don’t give in to feeling good” and “just get started”. A lot of his podcasts usually resolve to one of those two statements.

[I've amended the links so that they now work. Please note that punctuation marks must be separated from a link by a space. - MF]
August 19, 2011 at 4:30 | Registered CommenterMike Brown
Yes, all the cited journal articles have Implementation Intentions in the title. They are indeed a supplement to goals.
August 19, 2011 at 12:35 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Since the "Succeed" book is on Kindle, I am now reading it.

Tied in with what Pychyl says about implementation intentions, Halvorson in her first chapter makes the point that we need to know how to switch from "why" to "how", and that this is largely a matter of timing. Getting this wrong is a cause of much procrastination. In the example of an i.i. which Pychyl gives of flossing one's teeth, getting out the floss as soon as you have put the toothpaste on the brush (an instinctive action) is a "how". Flossing in order to have a great smile that will attract the girls/boys is a "why".

Halvorson stresses that if you fail to make the switch from "why" to "how", you will keep failing to floss your teeth. Once the flossing has become instinctual (which it will quite quickly) you can go back to thinking of the "why". So if you are ever tempted to skip flossing it's the "why" not the "how" which will keep you at it.
August 19, 2011 at 13:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
The intention thing worked: I had a salad for lunch! What's really cool about the trick is not that it works, as there are many other approaches, but that it is so lightweight and easy compared to the mental tuning I expected would be necessary.
August 19, 2011 at 18:06 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan:

Yes, the intention thing worked for me too: I'm reading her book!

Here's a good quote from it that I just came across:

"No matter who they are and what they are trying to do, we find that successful people not only have confidence that they will eventually succeed, but are _equally_ confident that they will have a tough time getting there."
August 19, 2011 at 18:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< I'm reading her book! >>
Mark, what i.i. trigger did you use for that?

<< I had a salad for lunch! >>
Alan, what i.i. trigger did you use for that?

<< When S happens, I will R >>
Alan, is that a literal quote from her book? Googling that phrase didn't find anything other than this thread itself.

I just added her blog http://www.heidigranthalvorson.com/ to my Google Reader. :-)
August 20, 2011 at 0:37 | Registered Commentersabre23t
My comments marked with @

<< I'm reading her book! >>
Mark, what i.i. trigger did you use for that?
@I believe you'll find it in his original post here :-)
<< I had a salad for lunch! >>
Alan, what i.i. trigger did you use for that?
@ "when it's lunch time, I will make a salad" :-)

<< When S happens, I will R >>
Alan, is that a literal quote from her book? Googling that phrase didn't find anything other than this thread itself.
@No it's my abstraction of the chapter.
August 20, 2011 at 0:58 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
This one Alan?
<< If it's available on Kindle, I will read it. >>

I read that as "If it's available on Kindle, I will (purchase and) read it". I was wondering whether Mark used any i.i. trigger to continue reading it. Perhaps something like "When I seat on my recliner, I will read Succeed". But then that book might be so unputdownable that it needs no trigger.

<< "when it's lunch time, I will make a salad" >>
You are having salad for lunch all week long? ;-) I was wondering about repeatable, habit making i.i. triggers.
August 20, 2011 at 1:05 | Registered Commentersabre23t
Sure: each day when I make lunch, I will... But think through the situation and consider obstacles, and have rote answers for those.
August 20, 2011 at 3:50 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
This topic blends well with the core thesis of The Procrastination Equation. Every potential action follows the mathematical curve of desirability that's increasing or decreasing as we approach the reward or punishment aspects.

In the moment, fun activities outshine boring ones even though the distant result of the boring activity may be greatly superior. A remedy to this problem is to precommit your action beforehand. While the torture of work is distant, the reward that follows may dominate the equation.

In simpler words, temptation is weak while it's distant. So Odysseus, tie yourself to the mast before you hear the Siren call.
August 20, 2011 at 4:05 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
sabre:

<< I was wondering whether Mark used any i.i. trigger to continue reading it. >>

No, because it's my "book of the moment" in my new experimental system. Just like SF3 kept me going through War and Peace, so this one is keeping me going through "Succeed".
August 20, 2011 at 10:16 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Useful article on her blog:

"Nine Things Successful People Do Differently"

http://www.heidigranthalvorson.com/p/nine-things-successful-people-do.html
August 20, 2011 at 12:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
While travelling, I passed through a small town and stopped at the tiny one- room local library to cool off. I noticed this book on display, and opened it and read about Goals for Pessimists. I was intrigued and took the book on interlibrary loan.
The summaries at the end of each chapter are well done. I thought the book could use a chart or matrix.
August 20, 2011 at 20:40 | Registered Commentermarkhedm
I realise I'm quite late to this party, but as a fan of Halvorson's book, I wanted to clear aside any lingering confusion that might result from Avrum's second August 18th post: Halvorson isn't a clinician, nor is she a mental health professional (in what I take it was Avrum's intended sense of that term). She's an experimental social psychologist.
September 29, 2011 at 21:59 | Registered CommenterMartin
> According to a number of studies, people who make a specific plan for action
> - involving when, where, and how the gOal will be worked on- these are vastly
> more likely to achieve the goal than those who only have the goal.

AFAIK, this is an urban legend, and I get highly sceptical when I see it repeated.
Are there proper citations for any of these 'studies', or is it the usual hearsay?
September 29, 2011 at 23:35 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
As Martin posted, Halvorson is a researcher in the field, and these claims are fully cited. I can look up the details if you like.
September 29, 2011 at 23:38 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Yes, please!
September 30, 2011 at 0:24 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
Succeed, chapter 9, by Halvorson: "Gollwitzer found that 32% of the students who made no particular plan for when and where to write it had sent their essay in. Astoundingly, 71 percent of the ones who dis make a plan completed their essays"

No citation for that paragraph, but here are related citations:
Gollwitzer and Sheeran, "Implementation Intentions and Goal Achievement: a Meta-analysis of Effects and Processes", Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 38 (2006):69-119.
Martijn, et al, "Blocked Goals, Persistent Action: implementation intentions engender tenacious goal striving", Journal of Experimental Psychology 44 (2008):1137-43
Armitage, "implementation intentions and eating a low-fat duet: a random controlled trial", Health Psychology 23 (2004):319-23.

And more but my fingers tire.
September 30, 2011 at 2:07 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I did not read Halvorson's book but I must agree with Alex W., that proving the claim that people who set written goals etc. will succeed more, is very difficult in social sciences, if not impossible.

What Halvorson (and Alan) cite, is mere correlation: people who set goals, tended to complete the essay more often. The simple "intervening variable" might be the personality factor: higher conscientiousness, higher anxiousness, or higher motivation and determination. These factors can be real causes of both writing down goal about essay, and finalizing it. Correlation is not causality. They could also proved that people tending to finish essay in time also tended to have better attendance at lessons from the same reasons. But interpreting it like "better attendance causes people to write essay in time" would be also wrong. So I am skeptical and do not know any experimental study which would really prove this (I used to work in psychology research).

I personally believe that goals are really of immense benefit. But of course, the main factor is not whether you write them down (did da Vinci or Nobel wrote them down?), visualize it 2 or 3 times a day or do any particular methodology. Everybody should use what helps him. The most important factor is you set them in accordance with your needs, passions, talents and calls. Somebody writes them down, somebody just thinks about them in vague form. And the key: you implement them. Anyhow, using AF, plain common sense, back-of-the envelope or newest iPhone 5, but again, in concord with your personality... Just do it, and that is most important and most difficult.

This is also reason why people try new and new methods and buy new books about personal development - they want to stay / become motivated, and new things/methods can bring attention and thus motivation (I do it also.) But the real core is in my opinion simple and can be found in any personal development bestseller from 1920s, 1930s, 1950s or 2010.... Know thyself, define what you want, expect tough times and go for it.
September 30, 2011 at 8:14 | Registered CommenterDaneb
Daneb:

<< Know thyself, define what you want, expect tough times and go for it. >>

Which is a pretty good summary of Halvorson's book.
September 30, 2011 at 10:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<What Halvorson (and Alan) cite, is mere correlation: people who set goals, tended to complete the essay more often. The simple "intervening variable" might be the personality factor: higher conscientiousness, higher anxiousness, or higher motivation and determination. These factors can be real causes of both writing down goal about essay, and finalizing it.>>

That might be true except that is part of their control. The experimenters randomly chose people to define their intentions, and told them what to do; it wasn't people reporting their own habits. (Also, the goals were merely stated, not written.)
September 30, 2011 at 11:45 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Daneb said <<This is also reason why people try new and new methods and buy new books about personal development - they want to stay / become motivated, and new things/methods can bring attention and thus motivation (I do it also.)>>

This is sometimes my reason. Other times it's because I'm actually seeking new technique. I'm already motivated, but don't [feel I] know how to proceed effectively.

Excellent post, by the way. I agree with your core, yet also value peripherals.
September 30, 2011 at 11:54 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Daneb,

You wrote:

<<I did not read Halvorson's book>>

and then wrote, in the next paragraph:

<<What Halvorson...cite[s], is mere correlation...>>

Do you see the problem there?

Halvorson is well aware of the dangers of inferring a causal connection from a simple correlation. (See also Alan's first response to your post.)
September 30, 2011 at 12:10 | Registered CommenterMartin
Martin: yes, you are right, I meant "as Alan cites Halvorson" :-). I did not want at all to downplay this book, on the contrary, I will read it.

Alan: I assumed it was correlation research. If it is really experimental with randomly assigned conditions, then my statement is of course not valid.

Still, my main point was not telling that these methods aiming to help in reaching goals are not effective, but that it is difficult to prove that any particular method (e.g. implementation intention as Gollwitzer names it) is more effective than similar methods. Even if we assign randomly people into two groups (one with instructions to follow Gollwitzer rule, second only control with no manipulation), then OF COURSE first group will probably succeed more. But my suspicion is, this is not because of this specific method, but because of *any manipulation* which was done with goals and which heightened awareness of the goals comparing with control (=no manipulation) group. In case groups differ in *how* they would manipulate with goals (e.g. group A:define implementation intentions, group B: visualizing result 30x a day, group C: think and do 3 next actions/day..), then I do not think we would see any major difference.

My opinion is that when we assume rather specific, small step goals or behavior changes, then implementation intentions (what, when and how to do it) might be really smart. And I will definitely read the book to learn more about it.

But when you consider your major accomplishments in your life: have you really had them clarified, clearly defined, written them down (best in SMART form) that long before you accomplished them? Me never. For all major things I did in my life, I had defined them more or less only mentally, generally, broadly. But this broad definition does not mean I was not aware of them and was not thinking about them 100times a day. And as situation changed and also luck played its role, I continually changed these plans, specified them, grasped some parts of them and left some parts of them and eventually accomplished something. I was mentally alert, I had some pictures in my awareness to recognize key situations. I thought about hard decisions 20 times/day for half an year: of course - 10 times I favoured one solution, 10 times opposite solution. Until I realized: lets do this! And that was all. I could have hundred times written it down with pros and cons analysis, just to see it really has positive as negative points. No benefit for me. What was always of benefit for me were these periods of not knowing precisely, thinking, experimenting, getting closer, favoring different alternatives, changing my mind etc. when suddenly I realized I am there, I accomplished it.

So I am little bit skeptical about possibility to plan future in detail, including all these written steps, behaviors and deadlines. For me, these approaches are too linear, too little adaptable, too little sensitive to changing circumstances. Instead, I believe in vision and I think time management should be function of interplay between your vision/broadly defined (and continually re-defined) goals and actual circumstances.

Sorry for long post, I also wanted to make it clear in myself :-)
September 30, 2011 at 13:56 | Registered CommenterDaneb
I think you are clear. I agree 90% with your post. I still think you are wrong to dismiss I I. I find it's quite effective. And keep in mind it's not about goals per se, let alone big ones. It's about transforming simple commitments "I will" into "I will, Tuesdays after breakfast". Extremely easy, especially compared to eg visualizing 30x daily.
September 30, 2011 at 14:12 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Daneb:

Thanks for the clarifications. I'm still puzzled by some things you say, however:

<<my main point was not telling that these methods aiming to help in reaching goals are not effective, but that it is difficult to prove that any particular method (e.g. implementation intention as Gollwitzer names it) is more effective than similar methods.>>

Why would that be particularly difficult? (I don't know whether it's been done, but that's a separate question.) Randomly assign people to groups using different methods, include a control, double-blind, etc. I don't mean to suggest that such experiments are easy, but I don't see why this sort of experiment would be any more difficult than, e.g., the experiments Halvorson describes.

<<Even if we assign randomly people into two groups (one with instructions to follow Gollwitzer rule, second only control with no manipulation), then OF COURSE first group will probably succeed more.>>

I don't think that's at all obvious. And one thing we do know is that the results of experiments can easily confound our expectations—things that we thought were obvious turn out not to be. So we shouldn't downplay the importance or the value of actually doing the experiments.

It's also worth emphasising that the control group were assigned particular tasks, given goals, and so on. In some experiments at least, the only difference between the groups was whether they were asked to form (at the outset, and just once, in some cases weeks or months before the deadline for achieving the goal) an implementation intention.

<<But my suspicion is, this is not because of this specific method, but because of *any manipulation* which was done with goals and which heightened awareness of the goals comparing with control (=no manipulation) group.>>

Two points: (a) That's an interesting suspicion, but it's testable, and again, we shouldn't assume we can just divine the answer by consulting our intuitions about human nature. (b) Given the way the experiments are set up (see above, and see Halvorson et al., of course), the extent to which the implementation-intentions group have a "heightened awareness" of their goals compared to the control group seems pretty small, and yet the difference in behaviour is quite large. So there's room for doubt about whether "heightened awareness of the goals" explains the effect.

<<In case groups differ in *how* they would manipulate with goals (e.g. group A:define implementation intentions, group B: visualizing result 30x a day, group C: think and do 3 next actions/day..), then I do not think we would see any major difference.>>

But again, this is just a speculation. Whereas there's considerable experimental evidence that implentation intentions are effective. And if someone is looking for practical advice on how to achieve his or her goals, surely the reasonable approach is to try the technique which actually has a good amount of evidence in its favour. (Especially when that technique requires so little time and effort to apply, compared to, say, visualising the result thirty times a day.)

It's worse than that, in fact: As Halvorson also explains, simply visualising yourself achieving your goals has actually been shown, experimentally, to result in *lower* goal achievement. So that would be a very bad alternative to implementation intentions. And when we combine the results of those experiments with the results of the implementation intention experiments, we have some experimental evidence that your speculation is wrong: there is a significant difference between forming implementation intentions and visualising a positive outcome, as the first increases goal achievement quite significantly and the latter decreases it.

(There are some kinds of visualisation which do help, in fact—Halvorson talks about that, too.)
September 30, 2011 at 14:46 | Registered CommenterMartin
At the risk of murking things further, Pychyl explains in his podcasts on implementation intentions (and Gollwitzer probably makes the point in his papers, which I'm sure all of us have properly read and digested so that we can discuss this in an informed manner) (no, I haven't read 'em either!) are behavioral cues to support goal intentions. An i.i. is NOT the goal, it supports a behavior that the person wants to encourage to achieve a goal.

I think the 'urban legend' someone mentioned earlier referred to the alleged Harvard study showing that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them. That's different from implementation intentions, which doesn't require writing anything down.

At the very least, it's a strategy that's worth experimenting with and trying out if there's a better habit one wants to encourage. It's easier and more successful than using will power, in my experience.
September 30, 2011 at 16:48 | Registered CommenterMike Brown
Daneb:

<< But when you consider your major accomplishments in your life: have you really had them clarified, clearly defined, written them down (best in SMART form) that long before you accomplished them? Me never. >>

Well, I wouldn't agree that the SMART form is the best way of writing your personal goals, but that apart it is important to remember that we are going to do _something_ whether we have goals or not.

The point of goals is not that we wouldn't do anything if we didn't have them, but that they should help us to be consciously in control of what we want to do or be and arrive there by the shortest route.
September 30, 2011 at 17:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mike:

<< I think the 'urban legend' someone mentioned earlier referred to the alleged Harvard study showing that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them. >>

Yes, that's the one that I assumed Daneb was referring to. It was a long-term follow-up study over decades. The only problem being that no such study existed.

But the fact that that particular study is an urban legend, doesn't in the slightest affect the validity or otherwise of the many other studies into the effects of goals that have taken place.
September 30, 2011 at 17:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Martin:
Again, I would not like to be seen as criticizing Halvorson or this book of which I heard first time today and never read. It can be interesting book.

I do not know if this is the case but I just want to explain my motivation: I am highly skeptical about when somebody comes with one formula/concept and tries to apply it uncritically everywhere, proving it to be the only and most important factor, almost ultimate formula of life. I witnessed these "trends" so many times in psychology. From "flow" or "emotional intelligence" to "social representations" or "Big 5".

(regarding research I suggested) >>Why would that be particularly difficult?<<

I do not think that research I (and you) suggested would be difficult. On the contrary, it would be perfect if somebody would study goal achievement profoundly and systematically. I agree with your remarks - all what I stated were just hypothesis and opinions which can be definitely testified or falsified. I never told otherwise. Still, I think that my hypothesis is plausible - "the more you are aware of your goals and elaborate on concrete alternatives how to reach them, the more probably you will reach it". At least, it works for me. Sometimes I use visualization, sometimes just mental rehearsal and thinking about concrete situations, sometimes I write next tasks down. (Also, I think that the relationship will be not linear, but inverted U - obsessive and perfectionist part on the right. And I must add that I do not see it as explanation for everything, just one factor which plays its role. :)

Regarding implementation intentions - it can be very good tool to define concrete points like "what, when, on which condition...". It really sounds clever for me. I have basically nothing against it. By the way - is not forming this "implementation intention" very close to forming "next action"? Or forming concrete tasks (as every personal development book prescribes)?
September 30, 2011 at 17:26 | Registered CommenterDaneb
I think we've come to consensus, mostly.

To your concluding question: Everyone agrees defining "what" is a good idea. A next action is a "what". Implementation intentions define when and where.
September 30, 2011 at 17:44 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan:

>>A next action is a "what". Implementation intentions define when and where<<

Yes, it makes sense for me.
September 30, 2011 at 17:59 | Registered CommenterDaneb
How vs Why.

"are _equally_ confident that they will have a tough time getting there."

Those points are new enough and honest enough that the book is now on it's way from the library branch on the far side of the city to the one near me.

Thanks!
September 30, 2011 at 19:56 | Registered CommenterCricket
Daneb:

<< I am highly skeptical about when somebody comes with one formula/concept and tries to apply it uncritically everywhere, proving it to be the only and most important factor, almost ultimate formula of life.>>

That is exactly what Halvorson's book doesn't do. She looks at different types of goal and different types of circumstance and shows how one type of goal fits one type of circumstance and another a different circumstance. II is only a tiny part of the book.
September 30, 2011 at 21:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
The book is on my list - waiting for it to stand out. :-)

Meanwhile, I've come to realize why most "motivational speakers" don't motivate me. More often than not, they have the same theme: "single-minded dedication to achieve a goal". There are so many stories of how people overcame every obstacle to achieve a long-held dream or goal.

This doesn't motivate me, because my goals are always being clarified, refined and changed. I just can't relate to (for example) a childhood goal of winning an around-the-world sailing race that motivates someone till they finally achieve it at age 35 (Neal Peterson). It's a very interesting story, and I admire the courage and dedication of the person who told it. But my own story, and the way it develops over time, is just so different that I find it hard to glean any real lasting benefit from the "I held to my goal despite all odds and didn't let anything stand in my way".

The "little and often" approach, combined with dismissal, works great for me. An idea can naturally grow into a project or a plan or a goal, and just as naturally can be put aside, for awhile, or permanently, while I constantly compare and contrast each of many ideas and projects and goals, with all the other ones. An awful lot gets done, and I am pretty happy with the results.

I suppose another way of looking at "waterfall" vs "agile" project management methodologies. If your life goal pops into your head at an early age and engages your whole being and you just KNOW this is what you should be doing -- great, go for it! I don't think most of us are like that, however. It's more of a process of constant learning, constantly sifting possibilities and priorities. The downside is that the constant sifting might lead to nothing significant every getting accomplished.

Another way of looking at it is "buy-and-hold" vs "trading". If you buy and hold, you better make sure you buy the right thing in the first place. It works for some people. But when it fails, it fails big-time. Successful trading means taking lots of small, controlled risks, many of which will fail, but each of which has the possibility to become a solid win, maybe even a positive black-swan event. But trading has the risk of changing positions so often that none of them ever have time to generate any value, or the trades are so small that even a big percentage win has no significant actual value.
September 30, 2011 at 21:35 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:
Great comment, that is exactly my position. My goals also change little-by-litte every week. This is for me the only way how to ensure they are still valid and of importance for me. That is why I do not value much these exact specifications, written description, deadlines, SMARTs, as commented above. As Covey and others said - one of biggest tragedies is to climb the ladder of your goal diligently, only to find later that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall...

As for your trading metaphor - although illegal in real world, I would suggest that such trading should always be really INSIDER trading, to ensure biggest gains. Insider means based on information from within (knowing yourself, your potential, your secret dreams....)
October 1, 2011 at 8:51 | Registered CommenterDaneb
Seraphim:

<< This doesn't motivate me, because my goals are always being clarified, refined and changed. I just can't relate to (for example) a childhood goal of winning an around-the-world sailing race that motivates someone till they finally achieve it at age 35 (Neal Peterson). >>

Hmm...

From what I know of you I believe you do have at least one overarching goal which motivates you in this way, although it is in an entirely different field of endeavour.

Deny it if you can!
October 2, 2011 at 0:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

Yes, I have considered the type of goals that (I think) you are referring to -- even when writing the post to which you are replying. Even those goals (maybe even especially those goals) are clarified and refined over the years, even if not essentially changed.

For example, this quote reflects a major change that occurred in my own life:

"Truth is not just an abstract idea, sought and known by the mind, but is something personal--even a Person--sought and loved by the heart." —Father Seraphim Rose

The goal of the search didn't really change -- but the clarity of the vision of the goal, and the clarity of understanding and putting into practice the means of attaining it, are changing all the time.
October 2, 2011 at 3:14 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

<< The goal of the search didn't really change -- but the clarity of the vision of the goal, and the clarity of understanding and putting into practice the means of attaining it, are changing all the time. >>

But wouldn't that apply to a goal of winning a round the world sailing race too? Reading the article on Peterson at http://www.knowitall.org/sandlapper/Summer-07/PDFs/NoBarriers.pdf you can surely see exactly that process at work?
October 2, 2011 at 9:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:
yes, that is exactly true. In my opinion, every long-term goal change and accommodates as times passes. That is why I agreed so positively with Seraphim. And that is why I do not believe much in methods suggesting to define *exactly and specifically* what you want, otherwise the goal will not happen. You cannot plan your future in detail. This is big myth, reducing anxiety, but also reducing your real probability to achieve. I believe goals should be specified only to reasonable level, still open to re-specification. Otherwise, they will (1) narrow your focus uselessly (thus you can miss opportunity), (2) loose their relevance (as occurrences and preferences change) and (3) can paralyze some people with perfectionist all-or-nothing thinking. (4) can increase anxiety by some types who believe they have to control the future and to know all the steps to their "specific" goal now. (Now reading excellent book This time I dance by Tama Kieves, it is exactly about that)

So I think next actions should be specific, but not long-term goals (alternatively, they can be specific but should be innerly viewed only as examples or reference points)
October 2, 2011 at 9:53 | Registered CommenterDaneb
Daneb's points apply also to workplace management. Bill Jensen's "Simplicity" suggests that managers, bosses should aim more to tell workers what the goal is, suggest tools to reach it, and then step back and let workers figure out how best to achieve the goal. This is in contrast to the normal detailed instructions often given, which don't work as well because the details overwhelm and confuse, and don't explain how to handle when situations fail to match what the manager assumed would happen. In short, tell the worker what's happening, why they should care, and how they should respond, but leave out details they can process themselves given the above.
October 2, 2011 at 13:52 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Daneb:

<< And that is why I do not believe much in methods suggesting to define *exactly and specifically* what you want, otherwise the goal will not happen. >>

There are a lot of different ways to use goals and to write off one type of goal is just restricting yourself unnecessarily. I can think of many occasions when defining exactly and specifically what you want would be the right way to go about something, indeed probably the only way to go about it.

If you read Neal Peterson's story you can see that he uses many different types of goal, ranging from the unspecified "I want to sail the oceans" to very exact and specific goals about particular races. I believe that is the right way to go about it.
October 2, 2011 at 14:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alan:

<< Bill Jensen's "Simplicity" suggests that managers, bosses should aim more to tell workers what the goal is, suggest tools to reach it, and then step back and let workers figure out how best to achieve the goal. >>

My answer to that is similar to what I have just replied to Daneb. Why restrict yourself unnecessarily to one way of doing things? What Jensen is recommending would work very well with certain types of situation. But in others it would be a recipe for disaster.

I doubt very much if the Moon landings were accomplished by "tell workers what the goal is, suggest tools to reach it, and then step back and let workers figure out how best to achieve the goal." And I hope that isn't how my car was built either - or the suspension bridge I might be about to drive across in it.
October 2, 2011 at 14:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:
yes, I agree. There are definitely also types of goals who need to be specific. I put it into extreme in my comment, for the sake of simplicity of my argument (and as reaction to technical approach of many goal management gurus). I also use very specific goals. So I agree - we should use mix of both specific and open/adaptable goals and use our experience to distinguish which type is necessary for that occasion.
October 2, 2011 at 14:49 | Registered CommenterDaneb

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