Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yoda and Goal-Setting

I remember a lecture from Psych 101, in which the prof was talking about a study in which they discussed effective goal-setting.

The main idea was this: when working to achieving something, focus on things that you do or don't do, not things that you try to do and might fail. The test is that the sentence "I tried to do X and failed" shouldn't make sense.

For example, if my overall goal is to lose 2 pounds per week, I might say "I want to lose two pounds per week". And at the end of week 1, I might be 2 pounds down or I might not.

What this prof was saying was to this instead:

Ask yourself: "What do I have to do to lose 2 pounds per week?"

The answer might be something like: "Well, I need a calorie deficit of about 1,000 calories per day to achieve that, so I'm going to eat no more than 1,500 calories per day and exercise for 1 hour per day".

Then, at the end of week 1, your success is based on: "Did I eat 1,500 calories per day and exercise for 1 hour per day?". You can see that "I tried and failed" doesn't make sense for this goal. You might say "I did it" or "I didn't do it", but the "I tried but that piece of cake fell into my mouth" will not fly very well.

The trouble is that real-world goals are often the "try and succeed/fail" type and not the "do/don't do" type, so it can be helpful to develop the habit of converting between the two.

As our good friend Yoda says:

Do or do not, there is no try


  1. Good viewpoint. So much about how we live our daily lives is in having the right/helpful attitude. Thanks for the post!