A collaboration of scientists from China and the United States determined in a new study that people who plan for their goals excessively are more likely to fail in achieving them than those who only work towards their planned ends, without obsessing about them.
In other words, planning the exact route to take in achieving your goals may actually cause more harm than good, and could easily interfere with achieving your objectives. In addition, the team says, careful planning usually pays off only when you pursue a single goal at any given time.
Chasing after two objectives at once can easily overwhelm people, which is why the negative correlation develops in the first place. This conclusion came from both laboratory and field experiments, the team explains.
The work was led by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) scientist Amy Dalton, PhD, and University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) expert Stephen Spiller, PhD, PsychCentral
“Research has shown that forming specific plans for a single goal makes success more likely. Most of us, however, are juggling multiple goals in our lives and jobs and managing a busy schedule is difficult,” the research team explains.
“This raises the question of whether forming specific plans can help us accomplish more of the tasks we set out to do,” the experts write in the latest issue esteemed Journal of Consumer Research.
An interesting finding the team made in a series of carefully devised experiments was that people tended to perceive their own goals as suddenly becoming more manageable, if they saw other individuals trying to accomplish two or more objectives at the same time.
“These people framed their goals as relatively easy to carry out and were more likely to benefit from planning,” the team explains. This could be interpreted as meaning that people tend to reconsider the perceived difficulty of their planned tasks, when they look at others.
One potential reason why striving to achieve multiple goals may reduce chances of success is that people are constantly reminded of the difficulties and obstacles ahead.