“I want to be less stressed”….. “I want to lose weight”…. “I want to have less clutter”…. “I need to stop being nervous before presenting to a group”….. “I want to be less indecisive”
All of these are goals that people might want to achieve, but something they all have in common is that they involve having less of something – less stress, less weight, less clutter, less nerves, less indecisiveness. They are called avoidance goals.
When the goal you want to achieve involves having ‘less’ it can be far more difficult to achieve, and be far less intrinsically motivating than a goal that wants more. Avoidance goals have been shown to be associated with less satisfaction with progress, less satisfaction with competence to achieve the goal, and even less satisfaction with life.
Instead, it is far better to ask yourself what you want more of instead – an approach orientated goal. If you want to be less stressed, then what do you want more of instead? To be calmer? To be happier? By asking yourself what you want more of instead it helps you to understand what it is exactly that you do want instead, and you can start to put a plan in place to reach it.
If you think about celebrating and being motivated by reaching your goals then it is much easier to celebrate and be motivated by more-type goals.
A less goal: “I have reached the level of stress that I was aiming for – really low! Or a more goal: “I have become so much calmer and happier since making X changes to my life”
“I am much less indecisive now, I only procrastinate on less important decisions” Or “I am decisive on all the major and visible decisions I need to make each day”.
‘More’ type goals are much more ‘sticky’. They stick in your mind, they stick in your heart. Try turning your ‘less’ goals into ‘more’ goals and see how your goals stick.
Sarah Alexander, Director, Vivid Communication. Coach and Trainer.