Tag Archives: Peter Gollwitzer

Working toward Goals with “Implementation Intentions”

Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi Grant Halvorson

People are motivated by goals that provide opportunities for:

  • -Relatedness to others,
  • -Competence in skillfully performing,
  • -Autonomy in directing effort, according to Columbia’s Heidi Grant Halvorson of Columbia University.
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

This model aligns with Daniel Pink’s emphasis on:

  • Autonomy: Controlling work content and context,
  • Mastery: Improving skill in work over time through persistence, effort, corrective feedback,
  • Purpose: Being part of an inspiring goal.Halvorson advocated an incremental approach to “get better” in achieving goals rather than to simply achieve the goal.

Juliana Breines

To move toward “better,” she suggested acknowledging mistakes with kindness and understanding to cultivate self-compassion.
This approach was validated by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen and University of Texas‘s Kristin Neff, who found that performance in various contexts increased when using self-compassion instead of self-criticism.

Additional ways to move closer toward goals include Halvorson’s suggestions to:

Serena Chen

-Consider the larger context of specific productive actions, 

-Define reasons for doing what needs to be done (such as exercising for 20 minutes, starting on a project),

-Use “implementation intentions,” a formula to prepare responses for challenging triggers:

If “x” occurs (specify time, place, circumstance),
then I will respond by doing, thinking, saying “y.”

    • “When I feel anxious, I will focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly for 60 seconds.”
      “When it’s 7 am, I will walk for 10 minutes,”

Kristin Neff

-Use implementation intention routines (habits) for “strategic automation” to reduce decision-overload that may reduce self-control and will-power,

-Focus on something interesting for five minutes to evoke positive feelings,

-Review “small wins” and progress toward goals.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

“Catalysts” and “nourishers” that enable goal persistence were uncovered by Stanford’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer‘s study of employees at seven companies:

    • Capitalize on preferred motivational style:
      -“Promotion-focused” (maximize gains, avoid missed opportunities, powered by optimism),
      -“Prevention-focused” (minimize losses, variance, powered by cautious pessimism)
    • Build willpower by committing to one specific, positively-stated behavior change (“walking for 10 minutes a day, every day” instead of “not sitting around all day”)
    • Apply “implementation intentions
    • Protect willpower reserves by selecting  a limited number of achievable goals
    • Enlist “mental contrasting” to think positively about the satisfaction of achieving the goal.
Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Halvorson collaborated with Stanford’s Carol Dweck and quoted Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right” to underscore the value of optimistic engagement with goals.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

They synthesized Dweck’s work on “mindsets” with Halvorson’s recommendations for setting, monitoring, protecting, executing, and celebrating goals.  

An earlier post outlined Dweck’s definitions of mindsets:

• Fixed Mindset:  Belief that personal capabilities are given, fixed, limited to present capacities, associated with fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness,

• Growth Mindset:  View that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes, linked to nurturing teamwork and collaboration.

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

Columbia’s Peter Gollwitzer a refined “mindsets” by distinguishing the Deliberative Mindset of evaluating which goals to pursue versus the Implemental Mindset of planning goal execution.

His team found that the Deliberative Mindset is associated with:

              • Accurate, impartial analysis of goal feasibility and desirability,
              • Open-mindedness.

In contrast, the Implemental Mindset is linked with:

              • Optimistic, partial analysis of goal feasibility and desirability,
              • Closed-mindedness.

Halvorson, Dweck and Gollwitzer’s translated their research on self-determination and motivation into practical recommendations for goal seekers:

              • Adopt a supportive “mindset,”
              • Practice “self-compassion” in addressing setbacks to achieving goals,
              • Design effective triggers and responses,
              • Use “implementation intentions” and “strategic automation” toward desired self-managed goals,
              • Consider incremental progress toward goals.

-*What approaches help you work toward goals?

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Multiple Paths Toward Goals Can Motivate, then Derail Success

Szu-Chi Huang

Szu-Chi Huang

Goal motivation changes as people move closer to target, according to Stanford’s Szu-chi Huang and Ying Zhang of University of Texas, who built on Heinz Heckhausen’s Action-Phase Model.

Ying Zhang

Ying Zhang

In the first stages of effort toward a goal, multiple paths toward the goal makes the goal seem attainable, noted Huang and Zhang.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

This perception of “self-efficacy” – belief in their ability to achieve a goal by applying effort and persistence – provides motivation to continue goal striving and reduced emotional arousal according to Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Clark Hull

Clark Hull

In contrast, when people are close to achieving a goal, a single goal path provides greater motivation, consistent with Clark Hull’s Goal Gradient Theory that motivation increases closer to the goal.

Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar

A single “route to the finish” reduces “cognitive load” of considering alternate “hows” to reach the goal, noted Huang and Zhang.
Like Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper’s finding that “more choice is not always better” for consumers, too much choice can derail last steps toward a goal.

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

These stages of goal pursuit can be characterized by differing mindsets: “Deliberative Mindset” when considering work toward a goal contrasted with “Implemention Mindset” when planning execution steps to achieve a goal, according to NYU’s Peter Gollwitzer, Heinz Heckhausen, and Birgit Steller of University of Heidelberg.

Huang, a former account director at advertising giant JWT, evaluated customer loyalty program behavior toward incentive goals.
In the first of several studies, she issued two versions of an invitation to join a coffee-shop loyalty program.

Half of the participants were given a “quick start” to earning 12 stamps required to earn a free coffee by providing them with the first six when they began.
Of the volunteers who received a “head start” on earning an incentive reward, half had multiple ways to earn additional reward stamps:  Buying coffee, tea or any other drink.
More than 25% of this multi-option/head start group joined the loyalty program.

The other half of the quick start volunteers could earn more stamps in only one way:  Buying a beverage.
In contrast, significantly more of the “head start”/ single option customers joined the loyalty program: 40%

The remaining participants were the comparison group, and received no stamps.
Like the head start group, half these customers could earn more stamps in several ways and 37.5% registered for the loyalty program.
In contrast, the remaining participants had the single option of purchasing more beverages, and registered much less frequently for the loyalty program: 21.6%.

These results show a clear contrast between goal pursuit behaviors when close to a consumer goal, and this premise can be tested with personally-meaningful goals like pursuing fitness, weight reduction, smoking cessation, confident public speaking and other challenges.
In addition to goal proximity, motivation is also determined by

  • Goal value, related to “high level construal,” and “low level construal
  • Expectancy of success, based on probability, difficulty, sufficiency, necessity
Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

argue Tel Aviv Universitys Nira Liberman and Jens Förster of Jacobs University of Bremen and Universiteit van Amsterdam.
However, Huang and Zhang did not fully assess their participants’ construal level or expectancy of success, leading to further opportunities to test their findings.

Jens Förster

Jens Förster

Related research by Huang and Zhang demonstrated the motivational impact of choice:  They compared the number of yoghurt shop customers who reached the incentive target when participants were required purchase six flavors in a specific order compared with any order they chose.

Volunteers with fewer choices were more likely to achieve the incentive goal, earning a free yoghurt.
People fail to realize that relatively rigid structures can often simplify goal pursuit by removing the need to make choices, especially when people are already well into the process,” explained Huang

This principle may explain dieters’ success in achieving weight loss goals when they follow a specific meal plan, which reduces the “cognitive load” of considering food choices, but which usually leads to regained weight when boredom and “habituation” set in.

Huang pointed to practical implications for marketers and non-profit development executives: Loyalty programs should introduce a tiered processes to earn rewards, with many options for those beginning to accrue credits, and more limited selections for long-term members.

Similarly, she noted that nonprofits may restructure giving options at the end of a fund raising campaign when the financial target is nearly met by reducing the number of ways to donate.
Gyms, as well, can offer many program options at the beginning of each year to attract non-exercisers, and a single different program to relatively fit customers.

Many people have no problem starting a goal, but they often find themselves losing motivation in the middle of the journey,” so Huang is evaluating the potential effectiveness of encouraging those people with “social information,” such as messages about friends’ blood donations, movie ratings, fitness accomplishments, survey completion, and weight loss attainment, for example, to increase goal pursuit.

-*How do you maintain motivation when you are close to achieving a goal?

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Still Fulfilling Your New Year’s Resolutions?

-*Did New Year’s Resolutions fade as quickly as the month of January?

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

If so, University of Pennsylvania Katherine Milkman has a recommendation to resume the good intentions toward goals: “Nudges”—small environmental interventions that can shift behavior to increase adherence to challenging commitments, whether at work or in personal life.

Hengchen Dai

Hengchen Dai

Milkman collaborated with Wharton colleague Hengchen Dai and Harvard’s Jason Riis to investigate “temporal turning points” – moments that feel like a new beginning, like New Year’s Day or beginning a new job or school.

Jason Riis

Jason Riis

Milkman, Riis, and Dai reported several examples of the “fresh start effect”:  They found that the number of online Google searches for the term “diet” increase following temporal landmarks like the beginning of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday or a holiday.
The largest increase—82% above the baseline—occurred immediately after New Year’s Day for nine years they studied.

Similarly, the number of gym visits of 12,000 undergraduates over 18 months increased in January, then declined, with smaller increases at the beginning of each week, each month, and each term.

 This pattern also occurred among 43,000 participants in a goal-setting website, stickK, over 30 months.

Members can set goals and contractually agree to consequences for failing to attain them, such as community sanctions to monetary payments to disliked organizations.
The greatest number of contracts—145% above the average rate—were signed at the beginning of the New Year, and more contracts were signed at the beginning of each week.

Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler

Commitments to pursue and return to goals increase after these “notational boundary,” described by Richard Thaler of University of Chicago.
A temporally-triggered “fresh start” can compensate for limited willpower and persistence by giving people a chance to restart their commitments.

Besides “temporal turning points,” self-designed “nudges” can be contingency plans for a specific corrective action when confronted with the temptation to deviate from the goal path: “Whenever situation x arises, I will initiate the goal-directed response y.”

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

New York University’s Peter Gollwitzer calls these mitigation plans “implementation intentions,” which result in better adherence to goal-directed efforts when developed before tempting situational cues.

Stephen Ciccone

Stephen Ciccone

The stock market’s “January Effect” of better-than-average performance early in the year may result from the “fresh start” phenomenon, although Stephen J. Ciccone of University of New Hampshire argues that it may be more affected by investor optimism and the “false hope syndrome.”

Janet Polivy

Janet Polivy

University of Toronto’s Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman describe the “false hope syndrome’s” unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease, and consequences of self-change attempts, and subsequent disappointment of these optimistic aspirations.

Ciccone found that investor sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Confidence, peaks in January and suggested that optimistic bid up stock prices of firms with higher levels of uncertainty.

C. Peter Herman

C. Peter Herman

Typically, these firms are unable to meet the optimistic expectations, and disappoint investors when they under-perform.
However, this pattern continues each year, probably due to the combined impact of  “fresh start effect” and the “false hope syndrome.”

Unrealistic optimism has been well-documented in overestimates of personal abilities, future performance and the impact of achieving goals, as well as underestimates of the time and effort to achieve goals.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett of Clark University found that both 200 adolescents and more than 200 adults held optimistic biases regarding the risks of smoking even though the strong majorities of smokers and nonsmokers in these groups agreed that smoking is addictive and causes death for “most people” who smoke.

However, the adolescent and adult smokers doubted that they would die from smoking even if they smoked for 30 or 40 years, and most adolescents believed that they “could smoke for a few years and then quit.”

Roger Buehler

Likewis Roger Buehler

Likewise, most people underestimate time required to complete tasks, called “planning fallacy”  by Wilfred Laurier University’s Roger Buehler, Dale Griffin of University British Columbia and University of Waterloo’s Michael Ross.

Dale Griffin

Dale Griffin

They found that 465 volunteers:

  • Underestimated their own but not others’ completion times for academic and nonacademic tasks
  • Focused on future plans rather than comparing with similar past experiences when making completions time estimates
  • Attributed their past errors in predicting completion times to external, transient, and specific factors, implying less personal accountability for misjudgments.
Mike Ross

Mike Ross

Volunteers were able to eliminate their bias toward inaccurately optimistic estimates when they explicitly considered connect relevant past experiences to inform current estimates.

Fiona Jones

Fiona Jones

The optimism bias can be reduced by setting modest, attainable goals, according to University of Leeds’ Fiona Jones and Adrian Coggins with Peter Harris of University of Sussex and University of Hertfordshire’s Hilary Waller.

They compared 119 volunteers’ expectations about their participation in a twelve-week-long exercise course and their actual attendance, and found that participants who set smaller goals were more likely to achieve and maintain the goal behavior over time.

-*How effective are “temporal turning points” to initiate and re-start positive behaviors toward your goals?
-*How do you guard against optimism bias and “false hope syndrome” in planning and executing toward your goals?

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