The Progress Trap: Why You Shouldn’t Track Your Progress on Your Goals
Tracking your progress on your goals can surprisingly be counterproductive.
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According to psychologist Kelly McGonigal:
“[a]lthough it runs counter to everything we believe about achieving our goals, focusing on progress can hold us back from success”.
Why is this the case?
According to McGonigal:
“[w]hen you make progress toward your long-term goal, your brain – with its mental checklist of many goals – turns off the mental processes that were driving you to pursue your long-term goal”.
Then, it becomes more focused on getting satisfaction from indulging, because your brain feels like it has met its goal, and “any temptation will become more tempting”.
Even your to-do list isn’t safe.
When you write up a to-do list, you feel productive because you’re capturing all you need to do, but research has shown that you’re less likely to actually do it because capturing everything you need to do feels like you’re making progress.
Here’s what you can do to fix The Progress Trap:
“View your actions as evidence that you are committed to your goal”
Always remind yourself why you want to reach your goal, especially as you reach milestones along the way
Look at your accomplishments to see that you really do care about your goal, “so much so that you want to do even more to reach it”
After you make positive steps toward a goal, ask yourself: “how committed do you feel toward that goal?” Don’t ask yourself how much progress you’ve made toward it
Tracking your progress toward your goals sounds like a great idea on the surface, but it can be detrimental to your productivity if you don’t do it right.
When you view your actions as signs that you’re committed to your goal and constantly question why you want to reach your goal in the first place, research has shown that you’ll be a lot more successful in reaching it.