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Goals and back-ups

Do you set goals? Your answer to that was probably a “yes”, most people have aspirations of some sort. As part of setting your goal do you have a back-up plan, a fallback position, something to protect you should your goals not be achieved? There is sense in having a back-up plan of course, but as a new study has shown, that back-up plan could be holding you back from achieving your goal.

The usefulness of back-up plans was tested in a series of laboratory experiments. For the tests subjects were given a task that involved unscrambling sentences and were told that if they performed well on the task they would be given a free snack or the opportunity to leave the study early. Some groups were then instructed to think of other ways they could get free food on campus or how else they might save time later in the day if they didn’t do well enough to achieve these rewards in the test.

The results showed that those subjects who had developed back-up plans showed a consistently lower performance on the task.

There is sense in having a back-up plan … but, as a new study has shown, that back-up plan could be holding you back from achieving your goal.

In follow-up experiments the researchers showed that the reason for this is that having a back-up plan significantly reduces your desire for goal success. Back-up plans can certainly reduce perceived uncertainty and make you feel more comfortable about the future but it might also make you less likely to achieve your goal.

Back-up plans have value but you need to adopt them knowing the impact they may have on your larger goal.

Source: Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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