Don’t Forget to Ask “Why?”

November 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

The Journal of Consumer Research recently released a study concluding that people who become focused on how to achieve a goal may have a harder time achieving their aims than people who think abstractly about why they want to do something.

The authors of the study found that when people focus on concrete aspects of how a goal will be achieved, the person who is trying to achieve the goal becomes more close minded and less likely to take advantage of an opportunity that may fall outside of their plan. On the other hand, people who focus on the “why” are more likely to consider a new opportunity which could help them attain their goal.

This is not to say that forming a way to implement a goal is not valuable. It is. The study reveals that when people form “implementation intentions” they become overly focused on the specific details of the implemental plan and less focused on the overarching goal.

The mere knowledge of the outcome of this study may be helpful as you try to achieve your goal. Let’s say you recently discovered that you are pre-diabetic. Your doctor recommends an overhaul of your diet. Immediately, you shelve any and all white, refined flour. Day after day, you stick to your guns: no white, refined flour. What you don’t know is what your doctor may have failed to tell you: daily, moderate exercise may be an even more effective way to stave off diabetes. In comparison to someone who has not yet formed a plan for lowering their diabetes, are you more or less likely to add an exercise regimen?

While the authors may not have conclusive evidence to answer this specific question, they are likely to tell you that you may not value an ‘out of plan’ opportunity the same as you would your original plan. “Planning is more effective when people think abstractly, keep an open mind, and remind themselves of why they want to achieve a goal,” they write. In a sense, this seems counter-intuitive, as so much of goal-setting seems to be all about the ‘how’. Asking “why” may help you to stick to your intentions, especially as you face unexpected challenges. This helps all of us be our own life coach, answering the “why” as we move forward. The lesson learned here is to keep examining the role of your own mind-set as you pursue your goal. Otherwise, you may just be letting a good opportunity simply pass you by.

If any of you want to share your insights, let us know!


3 Responses to “Don’t Forget to Ask “Why?””
  1. Tara Findlay says:

    I LOVE this question WHY…Simon Sinek does a great job explaining how WHY s more important than HOW or WHAT….
    I wrote about if here:

  2. Great post! Understanding ‘why’ you want to achieve something can make the implementation so much easier.

  3. Nancy says:

    Love this post!! It really is all about creating YOUR unique, Authentic “Why” and focus on that while taking action steps toward your goal.

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