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Share Progress Not Goals

Don’t Share Goals

When we share goals we think it’ll help keep us accountable. We believe committing to a new career or a healthier life is easier if we have support from family and friends. And, if we start to fall behind, we’ll have people to encourage us.

Unfortunately, without asking for these supports you’re unlikely to get them. Holding someone accountable is taxing. It may even hurt a relationship. Offering encouragement may seem easy, but it can’t do much without a plan to support it.

Worst of all, if you share goals publicly, you may hurt your chances at goal attainment. This is especially true for identity goals. Those related to perceptions of you; a better spouse, or a budding doctor.

When we announce identity goals it shifts others’ impression of us. We look better in their eyes for improving ourselves. But, people taking note of our intentions elicits a premature sense of completeness, says Peter Gollwitzer.

He conducted a series of studies highlighting this effect in 2008. Each of which showed some degree of this effect hampering progress towards goals.

In one experiment, participants committed their time to studying clinical psychology techniques. Two groups were formed, one where goals were acknowledged, the social reality group, the other whose goals were ignored.

The social reality group with a strong commitment towards their identity goal spent less time working. On average they worked 8 percent less than the social reality group with a weak commitment. And, up to 30 percent less than those with a strong commitment whose goal went unacknowledged.

In another experiment, law students publicly or privately stated their intentions of becoming a jurist. Gollwitzer’s intent was to measure feelings of goal completeness after social recognition. As expected, participants whose goals were acknowledged felt closer to being jurists. A shocking outcome considering they hadn’t put in any effort.

These experiments show how sharing goals deters achievement. Not only do we assume others will view us as closer to goal attainment, but we trick ourselves as well. When we’ve felt a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment, we mitigate our own effort. Why put in the work when we’ve already experienced a sense of fulfillment?

Sharing Progress

While progress takes up the bulk of the goal attainment, planning and effort is haphazard. In fact its often completely dependent on the individual. Even if the goal itself is common, e.g. weight-loss or learning to manage finances. But what seems to matter across all intentions is progress monitoring.

In 2015 a group of researchers noticed a lack of consensus on progress monitoring. They undertook a meta study including 136 research papers. Each looked at the effects of progress monitoring on goal attainment.

Researchers found public progress sharing or reporting via electronics has larger benefits than private monitoring. It increased goal striving through commitment, accountability, public perception, and positive framing.

Progress Monitoring

Once a public commitment is made we’re more likely to act in accordance with it. This is due to our desire for consistency in self and others. While this seems to conflate with advice to not share our goals, I’d argue its essentially different. Stating a goal is nothing more than intention. Whereas progress shows a commitment to self and a change in behavior. A sticking point for consistency.

Personal accountability is a key aspect to public sharing. Progress monitoring is difficult because it forces individuals to own up to discrepancies. In private it’s easy to brush aside failures or setbacks. We understand our reasons and can make excuses. But in public we’ve got to address the self-deception. Excuses turn into calls-to-action that help rectify and adjust behavior. We become accountable to our progress rather than complicit in failure.

Acknowledgement of progress encourages further accomplishments through public perception. Each time we share our progress we receive some form of praise for our efforts. Encouragement from friends and family is something to strive for, a form of intrinsic motivation. This, in turn, creates a reinforcing loop. As we consistently progress the praise continues encouraging further progress until goal attainment.

Finally public sharing allows for positive framing of progress. While it helps track distance to a goal it also allows you to remark on how far you’ve come. Noticing the effects of hard work offers another venue for intrinsic motivation. We can pat ourselves on the back over accomplishments and embolden our work.

Focus on Getting Started

When you start working on a goal, crucial steps must be undertaken to complete it. But, when you share that goal with others it alters your social reality. You hear some praise about how ambitious you might be or how capable you are. This tricks your mind into believing part of the goal is already done. In response you feel as though you can put less effort in. “Your brain mistakes the talking for action”, as Derek Sivers puts it in his Ted talk on the subject.

Instead you should resist sharing your intentions. Focus on getting through the initial steps to get started and monitor your effort. Then share your progress to your heart’s content.

The Attention Economy Robs Us of Time

Supply & Demand.

In 1971 Herbert A. Simon had a modest prediction about the growth of information technology and how it would affect us. His description demonstrates the issue with the attention economy.

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consume. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.”

His premonition is identical to the current state of multimedia. As content increases, attention regulates our consumption more than access to information.

Attention itself is a limited resource. We only have so many hours awake and distractions abound. Distracted minds are actually a good thing for content producers. They want us to consume or interact with content as often and as long as possible. And they know an entertaining product can pull us away from even the most important work.

What it interrupts or how much enjoyment we get out of it couldn’t be less important. As long as we continue to attend, tech companies can guarantee our business.

Originally, information technology was the constraint between attention and consumption. Sluggish internet, limited distribution, and high fees meant content handled better offline.

As with all things technology these obstacles were overcome. We have an endless stream of media at our fingertips. But our limited processing power, choice agency, and attention are outside Silicon Valleys scope.

Advertisers and app creators know and understand these constraints. The attention economy provides incentives for companies to manipulate our constraints. The more time we have on their apps, the more ad revenue they earn, the quicker they can grow.

It’s not exactly evil, it’s just how a market economy works.

Information Overload

A primary externality of the attention economy is information overload. Every company sends out as much content as often as possible, relying on you to choose what you’ll consume.

But that’s a pretty inefficient way to make a choice. Overload often means settling rather than making an informed decision. If you’ve ever flipped through channels in boredom, you know how easy it is to settle.

Overload occurs when the amount of information exceeds our processing power. The personalization of content, reproducibility of information, and access have made information overload a prominent feature of our society. The attention economy helps drive this phenomena. Notifications on your phone and browser push for your attention. Each delivers morsels of information meant to pull you away from your current focus.

Filter Failure

Not all researchers think that quantity of information is the problem. Instead our inability, or the producers inability, to filter information, termed “filter failure” is to blame. If we, or the companies providing information, knew what we needed there’d be no issue. Sadly, knowing ahead of time what you’ll need in the moment is impossible.

If technology filters our information, we’re likely to fall into a echo chambers. We’ve seen that in our most recent election cycle. Currently we work in tandem with content distributors to filter information. We provide some data about ourselves and they make suggestions. But those subtle nudges can override our best judgement.

Consumption Explosion

The amount of multimedia available to us now is staggering. Both Google and Apple have over two million apps in their stores. Dozens if not hundreds of ways to stream video. An endless supply of games triple-A and indie. And, a proliferation of news channels and podcasts. Yet the growth of each of these media types increases several fold each year. For those of us that love to relax or kick back we’ve got one major issue, how do we take it all in?

Attention Economy Multitasker

Even as we do other work we keep a constant buzz of distraction in the background. A report from Deloitte noted, “more than 90 percent of US consumers now multitask while watching television.” With millennials admitting they balance up to four additional activities while watching TV. And, as we know, multitasking means they’re not getting much out of any of these media sources. At best, each is distracting from the other.

It’s estimated we spend 6.5 hours per day on multimedia, but manage to consume 8.5 hours in that time frame. We double up, scrolling through Instagram while Netflix plays, text with music on, and let the tv go while playing video games.

We always have something to hold our attention, for now this works out great for creators. Even if we only catch a glimpse of their content. They can still pull in revenue from ads. But as more tech companies jostle for position, they’ll need more of our attention to make it worth their while.

In the Face of Attention Scarcity

To stay competitive in the attention economy media companies have to invest in content and consumer data. Including how our brain regulates attention. The goals of the attention economy are often in direct contrast to our individual goals. Whether you want to spend more time with family or get in shape is irrelevant, even detrimental, to media companies. Because all those moments away from technology impact their bottom line.

YouTube autoplays videos, removing us from the decision making process. Facebook and Twitter push us further into our favorite niches, giving us more content we agree with without allowing us to see another side. Snapchat confuses friendship with streaks. And every other app has some form of notification meant to prompt you into paying it attention.

As we struggle to understand our own mind, tech companies continual research the underpinnings of cognition. They deploy their research through subtle developments. Almost imperceptible in everyday use. We usually shrug them off as minor changes. Or worse, we take for granted that they’re for our benefit. But we know that’s not always the case.

Each addition means to increase consumption and reduce time away from our screen. Notifications and automated video shift how you interact with your phone or computer. Over time these consumption patterns become habits changing your perception of what’s important. Eventually changing what you attend to and how you make decisions. Your brain starts functioning on autopilot around technology. If you’ve ever closed an app only to immediately reopen it, you know what I mean.

Reclaiming Time in the Attention Economy

To take control we need to understand how companies manipulate our attention.

Our primary connection to these companies is through the apps on our phones. They pull us in with notifications, reminders, accessibility, and promised entertainment. Tristan Harris and his team have several recommendations for taking back time. Notifications should come from people, not applications. Apps should only have access to your attention if give it to them. Only friends, family, and coworkers should have the instant access cell phones provide.

Second, you should add a few taps between apps for entertainment and you. Keep tools like maps, calendar, note takers, and workout trackers on your home screen. The rest should go where they belong, on the apps tab. Adding steps between use and consumption gives you a few more moments to think over your best use of time.

With computers you can install apps like RescueTime, StayFocusd, and Adblock plus. RescueTime monitors and reports the amount of time you spend in individual apps and web pages. A great tool for highlighting what apps you spend too much time in. It also serves as a stepping stone for managing your consumption. It’s far easier to reduce time in apps if you know how much you spend on each.

Adblockplus does exactly as the name implies. Each ad it removes is one less source of information your brain needs to filter through. One less distraction to fight against. Giving you back more energy to focus on what’s important.

StayFocusd limits the time you spend on distracting websites like Netflix or Facebook. Instead of trying to manage your own browsing you can let this extension work for you. A true tool for productivity.

Apps used for focused work

On your phone you can download Forest. An app that lets you lock yourself out of your phone with a couple quick taps. It’s easy to get back in, but you have to go through a couple shame inducing prompts to do so. Hopefully those are enough to dissuade you from whatever distraction you’re seeking.

How Will You Pay Attention?

While Simon’s prediction for the future of information may have come to pass, what happens next is up to you. Do you make changes in your life to counteract the effects of multimedia companies or do you let them tighten their grip on your attention? If you’re willing to let more time pass into the hands of an outside influence, then your choice is made.

If you feel as though your time is better spent elsewhere you’ll need to take the steps above to regain your time.


For further information watch this talk by TimeWellSpent co-founder James Williams.

James Williams – Distraction by Design: Why the Attention Economy Is in a Moral Crisis


Free Vector Graphics by Vecteezy.com

Multitasking, Function or Fiction?

Multitasking, What It is and Isn’t

The premise of multitasking has been around for decades. It’s a phrase we attribute to ourselves more and more with the advancement of technology. But, researchers are skeptical of any gain in productivity through split attention. There are countless tricks and delusions the brain plays on itself, and the appearance of multitasking is likely one of them.

We discuss our multitasking capability when we’re set on doing many things at once. Some of us believe we’re not cut out for it, others that they have a natural gift for accomplishing a lot at once. But decades of research says this isn’t exactly right. What we view as multitasking is actually the brain switching rapidly between streams of information. This gives the appearance we’re attending to two things at once, but that’s not accurate.

Cost Switching is the unconscious ability that allows us to shift from one task to another. It’s an evolutionary milestone that may attribute to humanities dominant rise. It allows us to change environments and adapt to new situations at phenomenal speeds. But, it’s not foolproof. Switching incurs cognitive costs that make it much less desirable for productive work and deep focus.

While we can move between two tasks quickly, it comes at the cost of productivity. Every time we refocus our brain has to reorient. It has to shift goals, track new inputs, and reframe context. While we’re able to shift focus in nanoseconds, each switch tacks on extra costs. These little costs add up over time and make it more difficult to get into the state of flow that characterizes sustained focus.

Similar cognitive actions require the same brains areas to function. This is the exact demand we make during multitasking. Our cognitive power starts to buckle. It can’t call on the same resource simultaneously, it must prioritize one before the other. But our brain has to work through several of these changes for each switch. And that demand adds up.

You can’t listen to two conversations at once, or respond through the phone and email at the same time. Just as you can’t listen to a lecture while notifications ring off on your phone. They all pull from the same communication base in the brain. Even seemingly different tasks compete for similar resources like decision making and self-control.

The only exception to this is for tasks ingrained in our subconscious. They take little mental activation to continue processing. When we talk or sing while driving, we’re demonstrating true multitasking. Though it is possible to be over occupied and fail to react in time. Only in ideal conditions are these activites safe enough to be better than focusing on a single action.

Media Multitaskers Suffer Most

In 2009, the Stanford Communication Lab conducted a series of experiments on multitasking. One hundred students went through a series of tests examining their cognitive ability. The research, led by Clifford Nass, Eyal Ophir, and Anthony Wagner, demonstrated alarming results for heavy media users.

According to the study high media multitaskers (HMM) suffer most from their media use. HMMs are worse at blocking out environmental distractions than low media multitaskers. Almost habitually, they absorb irrelevant information. HMMs were “suckers for irrelevancy”, Nass says.

Each new piece of information interrupts flow. Because they can’t block these interruptions they face a cognitive decline. And, that decline reduces the resources essential for selective-sustained focus.

In another experiment, participants held onto mental representations longer than instructed. Each participant had a string of letters shown to them. There task was to mark when a letter repeated, but only up to a certain extent. HMMs failed to discard irrelevant letters resulting in incorrect duplicate counts. As the amount of letters increased HMMs did worse.

Ophir characterized these results by saying, “The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can’t keep things separate in their minds.”

Cellphone with multiple tabs
Distractions abound

Not only were HMMs worse at blocking information from coming in, once they had it they couldn’t let it go.

The researchers hoped they’d see gains for HMMs in task switching. Again, they were let down. When given two sets of instructions and asked to change their focus at intervals they took longer to perform the task with no gain in accuracy. The studies authors attributed their declines to their inability to filter one set of rules for another.

At no point did heavy media multitasking prove useful to participants. It’s possible the tests didn’t measure every conceivable benefit. But it seems just as likely that there are no benefits to heavy media use. At least from my experience.

The Impact of Task Switching

To switch tasks the brain must make two distinct transitions . First it needs to shift goal orientation from one task to the other, then change the set of rules applied to the new task.

We do this frequently as we complete tasks, like cleaning your room then doing the laundry. And the switch is fast, done in several-tenths of a second. But, when you move between two objectives each switch carries those same burdens. As they add up your efficiency starts do decrease.

And, as demonstrated by Nass and his colleagues, the longer this goes on the worse the burden becomes. Instead of getting used to mental switches the cost compounds decreasing performance over time. Those declines even seem to extend to work you do in the future. Falsely believing that you’re able to multitask craters any hopes for true productivity.

Multitasking can certainly feel like a better use of time. After all knocking out two assignments at once feels better than one, but it’s likely you’d complete them more effectively one by one. David Meyer, who’s done significant research into multitasking, believes that, “mental blocks created by shifting tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productivity time.” Even a tenth of that estimate is a startling. When you compound those effects throughout a month of year, the wasted time is staggering.

One Task at a Time

The myth of multitasking is pervasive and belief in it is incredibly tempting. As new technology allows us to do more in the moment it’s hard to resist the lure. After all, we experience no obvious drawback from working on everything at once. It feels effective, and that feeling is all that’s important.

But decades of research should have us rethink this belief. We can get more done and do it better, if we shift to a single stream of tasks.


Media Multitaskers Study – http://www.pnas.org/content/106/37/15583.short

Multitasking Undermines Efficiency – http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct01/multitask.aspx

How Focus Changes Your Future

The Importance of Focus

Our ability to focus drives much of what we do in life. As the renowned psychologist William James put it, “My experience is what I agree to attend to”. What we’re drawn to determines each experience. There is an impossible amount of information to comprehend in every interaction. Because of our brain’s capacity to remove the irrelevant, our attention, becomes reality. And that shaped reality influences the self you are and will become.

What Happens When We Focus

Attention is a term for a complex neurological and behavioral system. But focus isn’t just one thing. It’s a myriad of interactions that take place in any given moment. At its simplest, our executive networks process the environment and our possible reactions. From there it creates an appropriate response. Whether it works out as intended is another story.

When you actively focus on a bit of information you allow it to affect your behavior in the short and long term. Ultimately this information may turn up useless, but for a brief moment it can alter our reality. Every one of us has some class we took in high school that turned out a waste. But our what we focused on during that time made ripples throughout our life.

If focus shapes our reality, then what happens to the thing we don’t focus on? Our limited ability to absorb information means the environment outside our attention may as well not exist. Because of this, focus is a powerful guide. Either as a motivator, or as a distraction and inhibitor.

Limitations of Focus

It’s estimated that the unconscious processing abilities of the brain is roughly 11 million pieces of information per second. Whereas the estimate for conscious processing is about 40 pieces per second. At any one moment our processing power determines conscious thought. What we’re able to process is a part of your active reality, while the brain removes the rest or stores it away.

If you watch the video below you’ll see one of the greatest examples of selective attention.

The instructions are simple, count the times players in white pass the basketball. Most individuals can get an accurate count, but as with most experiments, that’s not the actual goal. The underlying study means to test how many individuals also catch the person in the gorilla suit. Often participants aren’t even able to see the gorilla. Their attention to the ball is too strong to notice seemingly unimportant interruptions. On varying experiments meant to test the same response, over 50% of individuals miss the distraction.

We have no way of knowing what our brain will determine is important enough to pay attention to. The various modules making up our brain seek different stimulants. And, as they seek, they vie for control of attention. When one of these modules takes hold it influences our conscious to take action. Even with these strong motivators it’s possible to change our perception of a situation.

Shifting Input to Change Attention

New Year’s resolutions can shift focus and change our behaviors. Your brain may convince you to eat a slice of cake, but it also remembers your commitment to lose weight. The instant reaction is to cut another slice, but your brain starts to backpedal. Recently you’ve focused on your waist line and comments from your doctor. That influences your reaction and gives you more time to think through your decision.

As someone with a fear of heights the first couple times I went rock climbing were horrifying. So much so, that I disregarded proper falling techniques and ended up damaging my elbow. This added another element dissuading me from going climbing. Eventually, after a lot of practice and experience, I was able to shift my attention. I’d built up a store of positive moments after each climb. Instead of focusing on the immediate reaction I was able to shift towards the excitement of accomplishment and the joy of a good workout.

Types of Attention

Selective Sustained Attention: Produces consistent results on a task over time. Common estimates for healthy teenagers and adults range from 10 to 20 minutes, though empirical evidence is scant. And what that limited time frame means is up for debate itself. After all, if we find something engaging we simply choose to focus on it again. Furthermore, experiments that espouse this time frame show no impact on information retention.

Divided Attention is the act of working through two or more simultaneous actions. It’s something we do all the time without thought. And we’re capable of doing these things because we’ve committed one of the acts to the subconscious. Actions like singing while driving or walking and talking.

At the same time divided attention can be impossible. If we try to count two different sets of objects at the same time or hold distinct conversations we will ultimately fail.

Our brains can’t handle this type of processing. Instead, we attempt to switch between both tasks retaining separate streams of information. Unfortunately we’re also pretty terrible at this, ending in failure.

What Affects Our Attention Span

How we attend to an object or task is largely affected by our motivation. Depending on our motivation we can experience identical stimuli in completely different ways. If we’ve recently eaten, our response to and focus we give a plate of food is minimal. But, if we’ve gone a while without eating or recently exercised, we’re prompted to attend to the smell, look, and taste. Here need triggers motivation and drives our focus.

Emotional prompts work to influence attention in subtle ways. If you’re feeling morose, you’ll notice unhappy emotions faster and remember negative news better than positive. Instead of taking in the entirety of a positive moment you’re apt to focus on whatever negative features you find. That’s because you’re in a state preparing you for further upset. It’s more important, in the moment, to focus on potential problems to mitigate their effects. We’d rather protect ourselves from further hurt in the moment.

Attention also changes based on our competence. The better we are at completing a task the less opportunity we have to encounter difficulties that slow progress. Instead we move through the task in a fluid state often referred to as ‘flow’. Competence, unfortunately, does have a limitation, repetitive easy tasks lose their attraction quickly. At that point we’re likely to try and find something more engaging.

The Importance of Focus

What you’ve focused on in the past has made the person you are now. And, what you focus on from this moment forward shapes the person you’ll become. Whether you focus deliberately or as a passive participant will determine your accomplishments and how you live. When you focus you create your future self, when you attend passively, you become your reactions.

The Positive Side of Stress

What Prompts Stress?

We experience stress when a personally significant situation exceeds our ability. To avoid failure, stress provides support to meet those demands. Stress itself is a neutral response and many of it’s effects, taken in the short term, are positive.

Unfortunately, stress has received a bad rap over the last twenty years. Positive psychologists have urged us to purge stress from our lives and to worry over it’s cumulative effects. While chronic stress can be devastating, it’s unfair to conflate it with the stress we experience every day.

How do our Bodies Respond to Stress?

When stressed our body releases the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and oxytocin. These chemicals instruct the liver to produce more glucose. In turn glucose provides us with a boost of energy meant to aid us in confronting challenge. For most individuals excess blood sugar is then reabsorbed into the body.

Cortisol has additional impacts on our body, primarily in the brain. Cortisol, a glucocorticoid, impairs memory retrieval, but increase memory formation. In response to situations of duress this is exactly what we want. We need to act to avoid uncertainty and danger, not be bogged down by memories of similar events. Strong memory formations help us to avoid stressful situations in the future. Stress ensures memories form with deep links to the experience.

When the body releases oxytocin it’s encouraging you to seek support from friends and family. Shelley Taylor, director of Social Neuroscience at University of California, Los Angeles, studies the effects of stress and its relationship with oxytocin. When oxytocin releases during times of social duress or anguish it may, “lead people to seek out more and better social contacts”, she says. The direct effect of stress-related oxytocin are still under investigation. But research indicates that our bodies release it to encourage positive social behaviors.

Each of these responses is beneficial in it’s own right. Taken together they create an environment of action and support that shows we should see stress as positive. Or at the very least, a neutral response to challenges.

The Purpose of Stress

The purpose of stress is to help us respond to difficult situations in the short term. When followed by rest our body is able to return to homeostasis. Ultimately, stress is a neutral response. What impacts us is the extent of the response and severity of the stressor. We weren’t meant to accommodate multiple, simultaneous burdens or especially severe ones. Long-term unemployment or the loss of a spouse are outside its role. Those events require the support of social interaction, exactly what our brain primes us to do.

Stress acts as a motivator under pressure. It helps us focus, trains our thought, and provides energy and supports. But our response to these feelings determine its impact. Does that focus feel like fixation? Do we feel ourselves getting anxious or energized? The answer to that question outlines our response. When it’s positive psychologists refer to this as ‘eustress’.

What Prompts Eustress?

Plenty of experiences demonstrate the beneficial effects of stress. Often times we naturally enter into a state of eustress, but we attribute our excitement and energy to being, “pumped up”. Rather than recognizing the effects of positive stress.

  • Engaging in a Challenge/Setting Goals

Challenges are important, they push us towards our limitations and sometimes ask us to exceed them. This can come from taking on new responsibilities at work, becoming a parent, or a difficult exam. These are often welcome changes, but they will cause mental and physical pressure. That’s a positive thing, it helps us develop and discover new strategies to cope with difficult situations. 

  • Competition

Competing lets us measure our abilities against peers. It provides us with the opportunity to assess our strengths and weaknesses in a safe, structured environment.  This environment provides an external cue for positive interpretations of stress. If competition results in failure we can try again after we’ve grown.  

The competition needs to be one you seek out. Being held to others standards reduces our autonomy and can lead to a negative mindset.

Factors of Eustress

Eustress is dependent on one’s self-efficacy, mindset, outside supports, and self-control

Self-Efficacy is the primary factor of whether we perceive a situation as causing eustress or inviting distress. It is the belief in our ability to overcome a challenge or goal. As Hans Selye, who first demonstrated the existence of biological stress, said, “It is not stress that kills us, but our reaction to it.”

It’s in this notion of response that determines effect. The higher our self-efficacy the more likely we are to perceive it as a positive experience. So, when we act as if a task is a challenge, rather than an obstacle our assumptions around difficulty change. Low self-efficacy negatively impacts you, conflating actual demand with your perception. Poor perception may make you hesitant to even start as you ‘know’ the result will be failure.

Mindset, taken from Carol Dweck’s work, models our perception to challenge. Individuals with a growth mindset understand that even failure can have positive outcomes. Even if we don’t meet a challenge now, the experience will make us more likely to meet it in the future.

Those with a fixed mindset, like those with low self-efficacy, believe they have set abilities and that failure is an obvious outcome. The difference is in response to that failure. Individuals with a fixed mindset assume it is impossible for them to improve. They believe we establish our abilities at an early age. Reframing mindset can pivot distress towards eustress.

Positive Stress

With high self-control we’re able to focus on challenges and limit procrastination. This gives us the benefit of time. The more time we, the more opportunity we have to experiment with different solutions. Allowing ourselves the time to experiment mitigates the feelings of dread we associate with failure.

Outside Supports: Not every challenge needs to rest squarely on our shoulders. We have many opportunities in life to seek out help and advice to better handle negative experiences. These supports illicit an environment that reduces mental burden and increases efficacy. Even if you don’t end up reaching out for support, the comfort of it can be enough to motivate you.

Reframing Stress

We often hear solely of the negative effects of stress; the toll it can take on our body and it’s pervasiveness in daily life. But stress is neutral. We all experience its positive and negative effects. In many instances our perceptions, not stress itself, influence those outcomes.

If we live in a constant state of worry, we’ll only produce more opportunities for negative stress to creep in. Instead I’d advocate we take the time to better understand our own abilities and how we navigate challenges. Ruminating on stress provides no benefits, and diminishes its purpose.

 

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-Confidence, Hubris, and Diffidence

There are three primary forms of confidence, hubris, diffidence, and self-confidence. Each is based on similar characteristics, but have stark differences in presentation. Self-confidence is generally seen as part of a person’s worldview, but can also apply to skills and abilities. This is due its effects on behavior and applies to hubris and diffidence as well.

Hubristic individuals believe they are capable of accomplishing anything regardless of past accomplishments. They act entitled to accolades for their accomplishments and are defensive when criticized. It’s easy to perceive them as out of touch because they overestimate their competence. These assumptions often lead to risky behavior. After all, if you can do anything, why not try everything?

Self-Confidence Vector

Diffident people are risk averse, insecure, and easy to discourage. They are likely to experience impostor syndrome and act with a fixed mindset. Diffidence spreads to other facets of life. Individuals see failure as an inevitable outcome and they second guess their ability. Not because they aren’t capable, but because they give up at the first sign of trouble. These failures are internalized and used to reason away the possibility of success in future endeavors.

The Impact of Hubris, Diffidence, and Self-Confidence

Individuals who lack confidence are slow to recover and attribute failures to circumstance and chance. In reality, lack of ability is the real culprit. But, an insecure person won’t attempt to improve their skills. Instead they assume they cannot succeed and remove themselves from the task completely.

Events that change your self-confidence feed off each other. Belief in ability is forward looking, but based on past events. Once you’ve lost faith in your ability you’re less likely to try something new. If you do, you’re more willing to believe you can’t accomplish your goal.

If you push past failure and internalize success you’ll be more willing to try new experiences. You can draw on the current event and reassure your ability to persist even through tough times. These systems are vicious and virtuous circles. Complex series of events feeding off prior outcomes and promoting similar future outcomes.

These feedback loops are why we equate confidence with success and the lack of it with failure. So far research hasn’t proven one way or another which comes first. However, we do know other social emotional skills lead to positive gains in academic and life outcomes. There’s no reason to believe self-confidence is any different, but it’s important to acknowledge all skills that lead to success.

There is a real need to internalize the success we create and take confidence in our ability. The inverse of this, relating success to outside factors is a major determinant of mindset and impostor syndrome. With either trait you inhibit behaviors that promote success because past results rely on external factors.

To mitigate fixed mindset it’s important to allow time for reflection. Self-reflection helps maintain a mental equilibrium. The human mind is prone to storing positive over negative memories. Because of this, we look at our past through rose-colored lenses and focus on results rather than process. While this is beneficial for overall happiness it can lead to overconfidence.

Self-reflection is also a beneficial technique for internalizing success. It’s easy for individuals to play off their contributions when they can attribute it to luck or due to other’s work. This mindset leads towards diffidence and is ineffective for maintaining confidence.

The Difference Between Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Self-esteem Vector

Confidence and esteem are often used interchangeably, but the way they affect behavior shows they don’t go hand-in-hand. There are endless examples of confident entertainers who turn to drugs to overcome self-doubt and anxiety. People don’t have to be self-confident to treat themselves well. They may just understand the benefit of good mental and physical healthy..

Studies link both to success and they’re integral components of healthy individuals. They impact academic achievement, graduation rates, physical health, and economic success. So, it’s easy to understand why we end up using both to represent the similar experiences, especially after the self-esteem movement. But, their differences are important and lie in where behavior and belief are directed.

Self-esteem is the belief in one’s self-worth and how we treat ourselves based on that belief. The higher our self-esteem the better we treat ourselves. We act and behave as though we’re worthy of appreciation and proper care.

Self-confidence, the belief in one’s abilities, skills, and what we’re able to accomplish in the future. High self-confidence encourages people to act and reduces stress around new activities.

You’re likely to meet people whose confidence and self-esteem are relatively equal. Self-confidence stemming from achievement helps you view yourself in a positive light leading to higher self-worth. Then, that feeling of worth helps you reevaluate how you should treat yourself. It’s another example of the virtuous cycle that drives feelings towards self.

Considering the positive benefits of confidence and self-esteem how can we help individuals in these areas. And, how can we make sure what we do is right?

Success and Self-Confidence – The Unproven Fact

Self-confidence is lauded as a key to success. In less than a second Google returns 41 million responses and 600,000 scholarly articles studying their relationship. But, national education trends show too much can lead to delusion and only mild success.

The American Freshman Survey acts as a pulse check for incoming college students. It measures self-perception and college readiness based on high school performance. The survey asks students to compare themselves against their academic peers.

It’s important to note that these are self-rated categories. So the results shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but they do provide a glance into the mind of today’s young adult. The following table charts the percent of freshman who believe they are above average or in the top 10% of students. It’s clear the self-perception for many of these students, especially their “drive to achieve” is wildly over estimated.

Self-confidence in a social setting is the only aspect to take a dip in the past few years. Coincidentally or not, the movement aligns with the rise of social media and smartphone use.

More students than ever before see themselves as special or better than their peers. This trend aligns with the self-esteem movement started in the early 70s.

Growth of narcissism and misplaced self-confidence

The self-esteem movement grew from the book “The Psychology of Self-esteem” written by Nathaniel Branden. The book detailed how important self-esteem was for success in life. A claim few could argue against. The problem though, is how parents, advocacy groups, and educators decided to bolster self-esteem. Gold stars, participation trophies, and limiting adversity are the primary tools. Anything to make children feel better.

Unfortunately this isn’t how we gain self-esteem or confidence. It’s almost the exact opposite. People need a way to test their skills to prove competence and gain confidence. If you remove the test by guaranteeing a positive result then you’ve removed the intrinsic reward. The whole activity becomes less motivating because the only thing to gain is exactly what everyone else earns.

It’s this lack of motivation that some attribute to the mediocre academic gains in America. During the same time frame test scores in math and reading grew at a snail’s pace according the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). But, confidence in academic ability has never been higher.

It’s clear self-confidence is important. But, we need to understand the drivers for self-confidence and how it leads to success.

How Self-Confidence Leads to Success

Insecurities and hubris are a detrimental to happiness. They strip away your ability to see clearly and undermine your ability to assess risk. But, what is it about self-confidence that makes it such a key component of success?

  1. Self-confidence based in ability enables you to be more responsive to feedback and less likely to put up a defense when faced with criticism. It also removes implicit bias for your ability and entitlement for success. Instead, you can act as your own critic. Working on the skills that need the most development.
  2. It’s difficult to achieve personal goals. They need time, discipline, and a strong work ethic. Self-confidence, rather than hubris, allows you to see the distance between where you are now and your end goal. This gives you a better estimate of the time and effort needed to finish. It also allows you to internalize your progress and develop further confidence in your abilities.
  3. You’re less likely to be see as arrogant. People will take you and your skills seriously. They’ll place a confidence in you you deserve and trust you to succeed. The less arrogant you are the more likely you are to attribute group success to others. This promotes social trust and confidence in your ability to lead. Finally, you’ll mitigate the deluded self. It’s common for people to see themselves more favorably than others. And, to overestimate positive life outcomes for themselves compared to others.

Confidence that comes from self-measurement and respect is a real key to success. When we see ourselves clearly we reap a multitude of benefits. All of which lead to better life outcomes, most importantly happiness.

 

Seven Components of Self-Regulation

Self-Regulation Theory

Self-regulation is the process of guiding thoughts, behaviors, and actions in our long-term interest. These skills are the premise behind self-regulation theory and a factor in academic achievement. Self-regulation stems from self-awareness, or the knowledge of one’s strengths and limitations. This practice is pivotal for goal attainment, personal responsibility, and developing growth mindset.

In character development it’s common to talk about traits as all encompassing. If you have grit, self-control, or compassion that’ll be the cornerstone of your success. We know this isn’t the reality. Every person needs social skills to navigate the complex relationships in their lives.

Thankfully, self-regulation doesn’t operate in a silo. It’s components skills and functions culminate to maximize effectiveness. The discerning use of each of these processes is adaptive. Because, only the individual knows what they are seeking, and how they can best achieve their goal.

Mental Abilities

Specific Proximal goals

These goals act as progress indicators and a source of motivation. They have immediate action steps achievable in relatively short amounts of time. Proximal goals work as stepping stones towards a distal goal. Ideally, you set a long-term, or distal, goal first and work backwards with proximal goals.

Strategies for goal attainment

Setting strong goals doesn’t guarantee goal attainment. We must develop processes supporting our chosen pursuit. Research by Kurt Lewin highlights four problem areas for goal attainment. They are getting started, staying on track, willingness to give up on ineffective methods, and staying energized.

Monitoring performance for signs of progress

Growth Mindset IconOne of the primary ways to promote intrinsic motivation and an important mechanism in change and growth. Self-monitoring is different for every activity and may be an in depth process or incredibly simple. Health related goals range from tracking steps to intricate body measurements . It’s up to each individual to determine how beneficial their method is and what they’re looking to achieve.

Belief and understanding that cause gets results

This competence helps determine the effort individuals put into overcoming challenges and the choices they make. It’s often referred to as growth mindset or self-efficacy and has seen a huge resurgence in education. Lacking self-efficacy means you attribute failures and successes to outside sources or strokes of luck. You’re less likely to internalize accomplishment and have a tendency to avoid challenge. If you lack growth mindset you believe circumstance and outcome are predetermined, so what’s the point?

Restructuring one’s physical and social context to make it compatible with goals

To me, the most difficult aspect of self-regulation. This process can include distancing yourself from friends and family who detract from your ideal state. Or, needing to pursue spaces conducive to your work style. Finances, social dependency, and physical location limit this skill. Unfortunately it’s difficulty is related to its necessity. It’s absurd to expect long-term goal pursuit when immediate gratification is present. But, that doesn’t mean you’re hampered if you can’t follow this skill completely. Communication can provide a lot of compromise.

Effective time management

A suite of smaller skills that serve to make the most of your time. Time management includes quality sleep, single task focus, removing distractions, and keeping a schedule. There are dozens of time management techniques, or ‘life-hacks’, but some are far more beneficial than others. I’d suggest limiting the amount you try and use, otherwise you’ll end up wasting time trying to be more effective.

 

Adaptation and flexibility to interruption

Few things ever go as planned, but our ability to rebound determines whether we achieve our goals. That’s why adaptive people think ahead and see failure as a time for readjustment rather than a stopping point. Planning for interruptions is an easy way to work flexibility into your distal goals. A buffer ensures you won’t have to readjust your schedule for every negative event.


Sources

NYU Psych – Gollwitzer

Zimmerman – Self Regulation

10 Benefits of Quality Sleep

Sleep Benefits Infographic

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Smartphone Addiction, A Growing Problem for All Ages

Overuse Runs Deep and It’s Meant to

In 2012, Harvard Business Professor, Leslie Perlow released “Sleeping With Your Smartphone”. A look at the Boston Consulting Group’s struggle with smartphone addiction and the results of letting employees unplug. Of the 1600 managers and professionals she worked with,

  • 56% checked their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
  • 51% checked continuously during vacations.
  • 70% looked at their phone within an hour of waking up.
  • 44% said they would experience a great deal of anxiety if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for the week.

These statistics are the habits of professional adults and older millennials. A generation who grew up alongside smartphones, but can remember a time without them. According to the 2017 mobile results by the Pew Research center, 92% of adults aged 18-29 have a smartphone.

The prominence of technology in young adult and teenage life is alarming. As Tristan Harris, founder of TimeWellSpent puts it, “never before in history have basically 50 mostly men, mostly 20-35, mostly white engineer designer types, had control of what a billion people think and do, when they wake up in the morning and turn their phone over.” These engineers and designers work hard to maximize every moment we spend in their app. They’re paid to get us to scroll past ads, consume content, and come back for more. Because of this, social media giants review practices and new research to tighten their grip on attention.

Reinforcing their behavior to promote passive consumption comes straight from the top. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix recently said, “Netflix biggest competitor is sleep”. Not competition from HBO, Amazon Video, or YouTube, but an innate human need. There’s enough room in the media industry for multiple successful corporations. The most difficult part of growth is the limited time each individual has to consume content. Netflix, and other media giants, can’t do anything to mitigate your need for sleep. But, they can make content more appealing so you make poor choices.

Phone habits interrupt sleep

A Change in Behavior 

Logging into social media provides satisfaction derived from an altered mood and triggered by feelings of joy. Psychologists call this variable ratio schedule. It’s identical to how slot machines and gambling become addictive. It’s impossible to tell when we’ll get reactions to our tweets, photo’s, or status updates. So, we keep coming back, hoping for a couple comments or likes to give us affirmation.

This behavior alone isn’t unhealthy. Interacting with friends and family is one of the positive aspects of social media. We’re exposed to different viewpoints, new opinions, and interests we didn’t know we had.

When we spend time with our partners, have lunch with friends, or need to focus at work, the tug of smartphones is a real distraction. Quick cans of your phone add up. If its too frequent you end up out of the loop, conversation breaks down, and you’ll upset someone you care about. Especially if your habit of checking the phone coincides with a friend unpacking their stressful day.

Unfortunately, social media is the perfect habit forming loop. We need a cue, our notifications. A simple routine, opening an app. And a reward, the responses to our post, a tag, or a mention. These are all enabled by some craving, distraction, boredom, or lack of focus. This loop is what makes social media so appetizing and so hard to distance ourselves from.

Smartphone addiction caused by habits
Every habit starts from a craving

Concerned with the impact of smartphone use on teenagers and young adults the Royal Society for Public Health, conducted a study of 1500 14-24 year olds. This subset of individuals is often referred to as “digital natives”. Young adults who’ve never lived in a world without cable internet.

The report, social media and young people’s mental health, highlights heavy social media users, those who get around two hours a day. They’re more likely to suffer from social anxiety, depression, poor body confidence, lack of sleep, and a heightened fear of missing out. But, there is some good news. The same group noted feelings of emotional support and community building, access to health experts, self-expression, and maintaining relationships.

It’s possible the lack of education around smart phone use is the monumental barrier to change. It’s common to see toddlers and young children watch videos on their parents devices. Without any interaction or context these videos provide little to no education opportunities. Because we grew up outside of their influence it’s easier to see the impacts of smartphones. Digital natives will never have that opportunity. They need some other way to understand the effects of always being plugged in.

Phone Addiction on the Brain

Notifications inhibit our ability to focus on a single task. They’re intrusive in active engagement as the need to address them builds up over time. Even hearing the chime or buzz on your phone is enough to set off the Ovsiankina effect. Which states a task stays in working memory while it goes unaddressed. Suddenly your phones gives you a new goal, acknowledging a notification. Some part of your brain wants to pay attention and respond. It’s a constant distraction.

Forget multitasking, very few of us can do it, roughly 2% of the population. The brain is capable of rapidly switching between tasks, making us feel as though we’re multitasking. But, this ability is only useful for short bursts of immediate task activation. Trying to write a couple hundred words while checking your phone will result in failure. As a result, you’ll need to revisit each topic multiple times whereas focusing on one and then the other would have net better results.

Our brain has to make a cognitive sacrifice when switching tasks. Accomplishing multiple projects in the same time period doesn’t make you a multitasker. It makes you the person dedicated to inefficiency.

Even having our phone in the open, on silent, is enough to decrease cognitive capacity. Professor Ward at the University of Texas at Austin had participants take a series of tests measuring cognitive capacity. Individuals were instructed to leave their phones on the desk, placed in a bag, or left in another room.

Participants with their phones in another room drastically outperformed the group with their phones in view. And marginally outperformed the group that had their phones tucked away. The strain your brain is put under trying to ignore your phone is enough to cause cognitive decline. Notifications amplify this effect, but aren’t necessary for intrusive thoughts. The mere presence of your smartphone limits cognitive ability.

Technology does a great deal to impinge on our focus. There used to be time devoid of outside interaction. We didn’t have access to an endless supply of information and entertainment. In these moments individuals focused on their side projects or hobbies. Now, we have to carve that time out.

In an interview with Forbes, Daniel Goleman outlines three types of focus; Inner, Outer, and Other. Smartphone addiction dismantles inner focus. Our ability to self-manage and prioritize daily life. Instead we direct our inner focus towards social media and other apps. One of my coworkers calls this, “the scroll”. Our habit of devouring content from Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, or any other feed.

Smartphone Addiction Solutions

People send notifications. Machines send distractions.

Turn Off NotificationsGo into your settings and stop notifications from any app that doesn’t have direct human contact on the other end. Apps are designed to suck you back in. This means no games, YouTube, Facebook, or Reddit.

Go into your SETTINGS > NOTIFICATIONS and turn off any notification that doesn’t come from person. Keep apps like Messenger, Messages, and GroupMe.

Tools in the front. Distractions in the back.

Productivity UpfrontPut your todolist and functional apps up front. Anything that helps you stay organized or productive belongs on your homepage. Everything else belongs in the apps section. You should put as much distance between yourself and distractions as possible. Every tap counts.

Charge outside of your room

Keep your phone out of reach at nightThe blue light from phones affects melatonin and makes you feel awake later in the evening. I don’t follow this rule exactly. Instead, I put my phone on the other side of the room. I still like to use it as my alarm clock, but now I have to get up to turn it off. This serves to get me moving and helps me avoid checking my phone first thing in the morning.

Apps that manage time

Apps used for focused workI track and manage the time I spend online with two different apps. RescueTime measures my time on different applications on my phone and computer. It helps me track my productivity and highlights where I spent the most time getting distracted.

The other is Forest. It provides a simple overlay for my phone reminding me to focus any time I unlock my phone. I turn this on at work and home. It’s main premise is reminding you that you were trying to avoid looking at your phone. Nothing flashy.

Solutions for More Focus

Curate content down to what’s important.

When learning a new skill it’s important to keep it in your field of vision. This includes your digital space. Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube let you limit the content in front of your eyes. Take the time to sort through what’s essential and what isn’t. It’s a minor step to getting yourself sorted.

If you’re learning how to draw make sure you follow other artists on Twitter and Instagram for inspiration. Take the time to engage with them and turn distracting apps into productive ones. The same goes for any video sharing app. There are endless tutorials available through YouTube. Make sure you’re following your favorite teachers and limit your exposure to distracting content.

Drop Apps you check at home.

If the first thing you do when you get home is check Facebook, Quora, or your personal email, then uninstall the apps on your phone. Unless you have a real reason like, fiscal or familial responsibilities, you have no reason to keep getting caught up in the scroll. Remove the apps from your phone and wait until you get home.

You’ll need something else to do.

If you follow just a couple of these you’re going to have a lot of free time. You need something to take over that time or you’re going to fall right back into old habits. Boredom is an absolute barrier to getting rid of bad habits. Bring a book with you, read long-form articles, or go for a walk. Any quick adjustment that will distract you from your phone will help replace bad habits.

Remember Your Motivations, They Drive You

Motivation is a “part of popular culture as few other psychological concepts are”. Those are the words of Martin Maehr and Heather Meyer, spoken almost two decades ago. Since then the fervor to understand motivation has only increased. But for some perplexing reason, we still discuss motivation and our motives as though they’re a brand new topic.

We view motivation as a limited source of energy. We can’t start our list of errands or head to the gym because ‘we’re just not motivated’. But, this isn’t how motivation works. It comes from our motives, our reasons to change or act in the first place. Everything we do has a motive behind it, but we forget the importance when we aren’t focused. Even lounging around the house comes from our motivation to relaxation. When we need to work we don’t need divine intervention, we need better a better understanding of our reasons to act.

Your motives drive you
Motives Drive Action

Our focus on motivation as an external source impinges it’s effectiveness. This external view is called extrinsic motivation and it’s only a fraction of what motivates us. Extrinsic motivators, like money and recognition, are reasons to act thrust on you by others. Whereas intrinsic motivation stems from the delight and fascination with the activity itself. Almost all the work you do involves a mix of each. But, unless you’re completely aware of the why behind your actions you might end up assuming things about yourself that aren’t true.

Intrinsic motivation is internal, long-lasting, and self-sustaining, but slow to develop. It’s also far more subjective. Depending on the context this can be a positive or negative. These characteristics support positive habits and make it a pain to drop negative ones. Extrinsic motivators are short-term, restricted, quick fixes with broad impact. They may undermine intrinsic motivation and often require rewards to increase over time.

Within either type of motivation are the incentive and aversive salience attention modifiers. These properties regulate the intensity of your behavior.

When we discuss motivation, we focus on positive incentives. We want to know what we get out of acting or behaving in a certain way. In psychology this is called incentive salience or approach behavior. the two factors, wanting and liking, compose incentive salience. The wanting factor determines our desire to consume or attain. It shifts our focus from simple objects or outcome to one that occupies our attention. The liking portion is the immediate pleasure we get after consumption.

Influenced by perceived value and required effort both factors can vary over short periods of time. As we work through decisions motivation fluctuates, sometimes rapidly, entirely in the unconscious.

Other times we use our conscious mind to figure out the best possible outcome. Like, how we want to unwind for the weekend.

You’re stressed, you decide your best option for Friday night is to kick back with a bottle of wine. Your first glass is fantastic. A preferred brand, you’ve been looking forward to all week, and the taste is exceptional. It’s possible you’re even more eager for the second glass than the first. But, once your second is empty you’ve got to decide just how deep into the bottle you want to go. After all you’ve got a hike in the morning and it’s been awhile since you drank. After a quick appraisal the third glass seems less appealing. It’s incentive salience has decreased and your aversion to another glass has increased. You decide to cork the bottle. Better safe than sorry.

Aversive salience, the impact of alcohol in our example, that caused avoidant behavior. We weren’t demotivated to drink another glass, we had legitimate reasons not to. The effects were associated with an undesirable outcome.

It’s difficult to account for all the factors that ultimately drive us towards action or inaction. It’s this lack of understanding around our motivations that make it tricky to deal with. Of course it’s hard to get up and go to the gym; your home is comfortable, you want to relax, and the gym doesn’t seem fun. Each of these are powerful motivators detracting from hard work, they’re averse and need to be recognized.

When we fail to understand our reasons to act we’re easily swayed. Our attention shifts from one salient distraction to the next until we’re finally reminded of our task. At that point, it’s impossible to tell if we’ll get back on track.

To detail what we know about motivations impact on behavior Dan Ariely designed an experiment focused on the importance of meaning. In his experiment participants built Bionicles that were subsequently taken apart for later use. For each Bionicle built, participants earned a small amount. Completing the first netted 3 dollars, the second $2.70, the third $2.40, and so on until they either gave up or the amount paid out reached zero. This was dubbed the meaningful experiment.

In the second condition participants built the same models but the experimenters reused them each time. If they agreed to build another they received a second, but if they decided to build a third for $2.40 they were given the initial model to reconstruct. This was called the sisyphic condition after the Greek myth of Sisyphus. Punished for his hubris and forced to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down as he neared the peak. This condition was meant to emulate Sisyphus and his unending, meaningless work.

Meaningful and Sisyphic Motivation Choices
Different Models Can Break Motivation

In the meaningful condition individuals built 50 percent more models than the sisyphic. A staggering amount of effort for a small difference. These individuals weren’t changing the world or helping the impoverished, they played with toys for pocket change. There was no opportunity to ascribe meaning, but the differentiation mattered substantially.

In another version of the experiment nothing was built or paid for, participants only heard the description of each condition. They understood meaning is important. But, they underestimated the magnitude. They expected the meaningful condition to build 15 percent more, less than a third of the total amount.

Ariely didn’t stop with the first few experiments. He knew some participants were fond of Legos and wanted to understand how that would change their behavior. In the meaningful experiment attachment to Legos correlated with effort, but, in the sisyphic experiment, attachment was meaningless. In Ariely’s own words, “this manipulation of breaking things in front of people we basically crushed any joy they could get out of this activity. We… eliminated it.”

In his final experiment participants had intrinsic and extrinsic incentives, but a change in process sapped their motivation. What we perceive as motivating; joy, effort, and money, lose potency without meaning. Understand what your goals and actions mean to you before blindly chasing them.

Your motives decide the intensity and frequency surrounding your behaviors. If you want to stay motivated you need to understand what’s motivating you and what keeps you in place. Leverage this knowledge and make changes that facilitate your goals.


Further Reading:
Motivation is Meaningless