Too much thinking leads to bad choices


Achieving most goals in everyday life requires persistence. Despite an abundance of relevant theoretical and empirical work, no theory details the universal causes of persistence (and non-persistence) across all goal types and settings. To address this gap in the literature, we introduce the Continuing and Returning Model of persistence. […]

[T]he goals that people pursue in daily life are varied and complex. These goals may be concrete or abstract, short-term or of indefinite length. They vary in difficulty, importance, and in how they work with or against other goals that a person holds. Some goals are intended to be started and finished in one continuous episode, but other goals are episodic, meaning that pursuit occurs across multiple episodes. People’s most important goals (the ones that they most want to accomplish) are typically not achieved in one episode of pursuit.

Everyday goals can be episodic for many reasons. Goals can be episodic by their nature (e.g., “write daily”), but more often they are episodic by choice. Breaking a goal into smaller tasks can be beneficial, as can taking breaks to rest and recover. People manage many goals in daily life and minimally have goals to eat, sleep, and maintain their social relationships. People often cannot focus on one goal at a time; instead, they manage multiple goals, allocating their time and attention among competing behavioral choice options. Thus, factors unrelated to focal goals can affect their persistence. Even goals intended to be pursued in one continuous episode (e.g., writing an email) are often deliberately stopped or interrupted by factors unrelated to someone’s motivation for the focal goal such scheduled events, other prioritized goals, and extraneous thoughts. The potentially episodic nature of everyday goal pursuit and the fact that everyday persistence can be influenced by factors external to the goal has implications for how and why persistence occurs and fails to occur. […]

In contrast to the intuitive notion that persistence is inherently good and reflective of commitment to the focal goal or to one’s personal character, the Continuing and Returning Model depicts persistence as goal pursuit process that is dynamic, multiply determined, and separable from goal attainment and other metrics of success. Persistence is not a binary behavior but rather a process that is affected by many factors. Furthermore, persistence is not always adaptive. Indeed, sometimes persistence reflects inefficient goal pursuit. Similarly, non- persistence isn’t always maladaptive. People who stop pursuing a goal are often prioritizing or accommodating other important goals, people, or events.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

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