Tag Archives: strategic automation

Working toward Goals with “Implementation Intentions”

Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi Grant Halvorson

People are motivated by goals that enable:

  • -Relatedness to others,
  • -Competence in skillfully performing,
  • -Autonomy in directing effort, according to Columbia’s Heidi Grant Halvorson of Columbia University.                                                                                                            Halvorson advocated working toward “better” in achieving goals rather than focusing only on achieving the goal.

    Juliana Breines

    This can be accomplished by acknowledging mistakes with kindness and understanding to cultivate self-compassion, suggested by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen and University of Texas‘s Kristin Neff to increase performance.

The Relatedness-Competence-Autonomy model aligns with Daniel Pink’s emphasis on:

Daniel Pink

  • 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 suggested ways to move closer toward goals:

Serena Chen

-Consider the larger context of specific productive actions, 

-Define reasons for doing what needs to be done – the “why,”

-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

-Apply 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.

Goal persistence can be increased, found Stanford’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in a study of employees at seven companies.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

They found that “catalysts” and “nourishers” continue movement toward goals:

    • 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”)
    • Apply “implementation intentions,
    • Focus on a limited number of achievable goals,
    • Enlist “mental contrasting” to think positively about the satisfaction of achieving the goal.
Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Halvorson, collaborating with Stanford’s Carol Dweck, 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 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 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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©Kathryn Welds