One reason for achieving goals is that people are motivated by self-gratification that may occur consciously or unconsciously (Aarts, 2007). Addressing needs, or accomplishing a task etc. are examples of goal achievement that occur on a regular basis. Some tasks however require more thought process and perhaps may involve more choices. While more choices are what society may strive for, it is arguably a positive outcome.
Take television or cable channels, for instance, the former may allow a person in the U.S. access to see 12 channels while the latter may result in 70 or more. A person can be content with watching one show at any given time or bits and pieces of many. Whereas channel surfing may be a popular past time it’s hardly time well spent and people may even be less happy in the end. In the context of dating there may be the ‘perfect [person] list’ where there is an elusive perfect individual somewhere out there. The individual may be so overwhelmed with choices of an ideal that, again, the outcome is less than positive.
Iyengar, Wells, and Schwartz (2006) argue that too many choices can make someone feel worse rather than better. The researchers found that people who were fixed on options (i.e. TV channels or attributes on the perfect person list, for instance) and used external sources (i.e. TV guide and fashion) as information tended to be less happy. An explanation for the result is that, in pursuing the goal, the individual is in search for the ideal and while a person may have indeed performed better in some way in the end the ideal cannot been reached (Iyengar et al., 2006).
Depiction of water choices
Read more: NPR- basic TV offers cable alternative
Read more: Ladies and ‘perfect man’ list
Iyengar, S.S., Wells, R.E., & Schwartz, B. (2006). Doing better but feeling worse: Looking for the “best” job undermines satisfaction.
Aarts, H. (2007). On the emergence of human goal pursuit: The nonconscious regulation and motivation of goals.
In just a few days we’ll have a resolution double-whammy. Not just a new year, but a new decade. Seems like a perfect time to be jotting down those resolutions (or publishing them online), right? Making resolutions is one thing…but what about keeping them? What can social psychology tell us that will help increase the odds that this time next year we’ll be proud of ourselves for the changes we’ve made?
In a recent study Lally et al. found that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to become automatic. While 254 days of gym trips and healthier eating may seem daunting, there’s small comfort in their finding that missing one day did not seem to influence the habit formation process. Weidemann et al. found that action-planning and coping-planning also affect behavior change, particularly in behaviors related to health. Additionally, developing an action plan early on and preparing mentally for the obstacles you may confront as you try to keep your goal (coping-planning, further explained here) can also help you keep your goal.
- stick with your resolution for the long haul
- don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss a day
- develop a plan to help you reach your goal or keep your resolution
- mentally imagine yourself overcoming any obstacles
- and, while you’re at it, tell your friends, since that seems to help too!
(2009) Lally et al. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
(2009) Wiedemann et al. How planning facilitates behaviour change: Additive and interactive effects of a randomized controlled trial
(2005) Sniehotta et al. Action planning and coping planning for long-term lifestyle change: theory and assessment
(2009) Burkeman. This column will change your life, The Guardian