To spot your life's guiding star

My research built upon the well-grounded observation that people can accomplish more when they set clear goals.Almost everyone recognizes the great value of setting goals.

Still, most people tend to set much more explicit goals for low priority domains than for their most important ambitions. (This lapse is labeled the Delmore Effect, after the failed poet, Delmore Schwartz).

It seemed reasonable that this neglect of the most important could be reversed if people first reflected on their past achievements in that important life area. In fact, such an exercise made the Delmore Effect slightly worse. Another experiment demonstrated that distractions, per se, don't help. But finally, by thinking first about related goals which were not of top-priority, people finally managed to overcome the Delmore Effect.

Astronomers know to look slightly away from the point at which they expect to locate a star. Analogously, when a person aims to most clearly articulate her own guiding goals, she would be more successful by calling to mind the values which are peripherally related and supportive of her complete self.

Instead of directly confronting the value of greatest import, a person can become more articulate about their central life goals by taking a slightly less direct approach.

 

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