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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Find the Motive, Another Facet of Goal Pursuit
Do you see yourself as trying to be good or as getting better? Heidi Grant Halvorsen, PhD, wants to know.

Is this a trick question? You bet. If you see yourself pursuing goals to prove you're good--or great--at something, then you get the big red buzzer. You may indeed achieve your goals, but your life will be h-e-double toothpicks. As the polite like to say. Since I'm not that polite, I'll just say it. Wrong. Buzz. You have chosen the wrong motive and your life will be full of misery.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

Perhaps I do not.

Try it. Say, "I want to publish a book so everyone will say how talented I am."

Buzz! Wrong answer.

Say, "OMG! I got an A last test, but only a B+ this time--I must not be that smart. I think I'll develop an anxiety disorder, or perhaps an eating disorder."

Buzz! Wrong answer.

Just in case you didn't get the message in my previous posts, here it is. If you've been buzzed by the big red buzzer (and no, it's not that red Staples buzzer, it's more like the buzzer in Family Feud), then you're headed for trouble. Perhaps this sounds familiar. It is. HGH, PhD, is offering another way of looking at the mindset theory. If you're pursuing some goal to prove you're good enough, you're great enough, and people love you, then you're motivated by a fixed or entity mindset. This mindset's downside is that your self image becomes attached to having achieved --whatever--and therefore the risk of losing it threatens your sense of yourself as worthy.  If your motive is that you're going to show those bastards, then you're going to be too busy shoring up your self image to handle bumps and derailments in your path.

Bumps and derailments being the general rule in life, instead of the exception, it's much better to save those be good goals for straightforward things. I'm having a little trouble thinking of something straightforward. Which is the point. But the be good goal, the fixed mindset, works when you can just plug in numbers and check the math. Otherwise, you want to motivate yourself by the desire to improve. That way, the growth mindset way, also known as the incremental way, you can still feel good when a gigantic tree falls across the road, because you figure out how to deal with it. (Climb over it, go around it, chop it up and haul it away.) As HGH, PhD, says, "Whenever possible, try to turn your goals from being good to getting better....When your emphasis is on what there is to learn rather than what there is to prove, you will be a lot happier and will achieve a lot more."

So file away those SAT scores you remember from 30 years ago and roll up your sleeves. Why? Because people motivated by getting better/growth/incremental thinking

  • Don't give up when the going gets tough
  • Enjoy themselves more
  • Deal with depression and anxiety better

Now I think we've polished every facet of that particular theory to perfection. Look! I can see myself!

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