Goal-setting research on fantasising, visualisation, goal commitment, procrastination, the dark side of goal-setting and more…
Author: Jeremy Dean
We’re all familiar with the nuts and bolts of goal-setting. We should set specific, challenging goals, use rewards, record progress and make public commitments (if you’re not familiar with these then check out this article on how to reach life goals).
So how come we still fail?
This psychological research suggests why and what mindsets should help us reach our goals.
1. Stop fantasising
The biggest enemy of any goal is excessive positive fantasising. Research on fantasising in goal-setting shows that positive fantasies are associated with failure to get a job, find a partner, pass an exam or get through surgery. Those whose fantasies were more negative did better. Don’t experience the future positively before you achieve it.
2. Start committing
The reason we don’t achieve our goals is lack of commitment.
One powerful psychological technique to increase commitment is mental contrasting. This involves entertaining a positive fantasy but then pouring a bucket of cold reality over it (follow this link for the details). It’s hard, but research shows people really respond to it.
3. Start starting
You can use the Zeigarnik effect to drag you on towards your goal. A Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, noticed that waiters seemed only to remember orders which were in the process of being served. When completed, the orders evaporated from their memory.
What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere… anywhere. Just taking that first step could be the difference between failure and success. Once you’ve started, the goal will get lodged in your mind.

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