Saturday, January 29, 2005

Studying Goal-Setting

Fascinating paper about how people set goals (pdf). I enjoyed the illumination of the fact that we mostly think planning is a good thing, but don't actually do much of it:
"Specifically, they were asked: 'Do you believe that it is possible to improve your effectiveness by formulating goals?' This question evoked assent from 94% of the respondents. In spite of the near universal awareness that goal-setting would be useful, almost all of the queried people also confessed that they did not set goals. Specifically, they were asked: 'Is there any area in your life where you would like to do better, but have not formulated explicit goals in order to help you do better?' Although they had just agreed that goals were valuable tools, 91% admitted that they had not taken advantage of this useful strategy."
It's as if setting goals is like flossing or something -- knowing how valuable it is isn't sufficient motivation to actually do it. So what about the popularity of 43Things, where people seem to be loving the goal-setting process? One of the most interesting insights is related to something called the Delmore Effect, which basically shows that we tend to focus our attention on short-term, lower-priority goals and ignore the bigger, more important ones. I wonder how you analyze goals in 43Things for that effect?

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