Thursday, 10 March 2011

Considering how others can help with goals leads us to plan less effort towards reaching them

We can't achieve our goals without making some effort. Summoning the willpower to put things in place and see them through can be tough. A recent study suggests that under certain conditions, we're willing to surrender motivational responsibility in the hope that our support networks will pick up the slack.

Gráine Fitzsimons and Eli Finkel looked at planned health behaviours across several experiments. Female participants were firstly asked to provide an example of their life partner helping them to fulfil a goal, either related to their health or, as a control condition, their career. They then rated how much time and effort they intended to put toward their future health goals. Those that recalled their partner helping with health goals slacked off, committing to less effort for the future. (We could think of this as the Jiminy Cricket gambit.)

To better understand the effect, the investigators evaluated depletion theory, which proposes that our capacity to self-regulate is a resource that is eaten up by use. In one of the experiments, participants completed an easy or tricky typing task before giving their examples and ratings; the tasks were designed to deplete a little or a lot of regulation effort. The slacking-off effect was greater and more significant for those in the tricky task condition, suggesting that being short on resources makes you more willing to let another shoulder the strain.

Another experiment examining academic goals found that considering partner support leads us to throw cautious willpower conservation strategies out of the window. Here, students of both sexes were given a fun puzzle to play before a valuable but taxing task that researchers claimed would benefit future test-taking. Half the participants were warned the puzzle would soak up effort needed for the taxing task, and they strategically spent less time on the puzzle, hoarding their efforts for later – unless, that is, they’d been asked at the experiment start to think about their life partner helping them in academic situations.

Personal goal-setting at work commonly involves identifying others who can support your goal. This is intended to enable and encourage, but this research demonstrates the possibility of perverse effects. However, it doesn't differentiate between support for activities that were possible anyway ( getting up for a 6am run) from support that provides a platform for further progress (sign-off for a work shadowing exercise). I suspect the latter, enabling support is genuinely motivating as it decreases, rather than increases, excuses for inaction.

Regardless, it’s clear that under some conditions we let others act as our conscience while we decrease our motivational efforts. We can resist this, by making it clear from the outset that we alone are responsible for success. Or, like Fitzsimons and Finkel, we could take a more celebratory view, seeing that “partners may develop shared self-regulatory systems” that allow them “to best make use of their limited self-control resources over time.” But we should definitely keep an eye on this tendency. Preferably you, if you have a minute.
Fitzsimons, G., & Finkel, E. (2011). Outsourcing Self-Regulation Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797610397955


  1. It's worth noting that recent research suggests willpower depletion effects may only occur when we hold the belief that willpower is a limited resource.

    Reference here

    Reframing willpower as an unlimited resource may therefore be another method of preventing individuals from off-loading their responsibilities onto others.

  2. It is our willpower that allow us to never to give up whether how much trouble we are facing. We can share our will power to help others who can't help themselves. In this way we help our society to grow and that us make us the real protector.

  3. A great article about how other can help with goals please do share these type of article and tell me the name of the template.

  4. We should always have a plan to help other IF we do not have plan we can not help others.

  5. Yes indeed. We have to look after each other that's how the societies will develop and grow.

    1. Yes I totally agree with you bro. Moreover It is our willpower that allows us to never give up, no matter how difficult things get. We can use our willpower to help others who are unable to help themselves. As a result, we help our society grow and become the true protectors.

  6. 토토 It's actually a great and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Thanks for sharing.

  7. For developing a new cloud app or to migrate the existing app, our experts help you select the right type of cloud including private, public, or hybrid with the right choice of platform so that you develop the right app from cloud app development company for your business.

  8. Our specialists can assist you in selecting the appropriate cloud type—private, public, or hybrid—along with the appropriate platform to create the ideal app for your business from a web development company, whether you are creating a new app or migrating an existing one.

  9. Hi I am Allen feeling well after read your article post. Being a sales manager at Wintfloor china I always keen to adopt such new things which really boost up my sales. Best Choice for your interior flooring, smooth and classic look similar like wooden flooring. One of the best" rel="nofollow">laminate flooring factory China, Virgin core wooden texture flooring. Water and fire protected, Noise cancellation flooring China

  10. Hey I am James Klassen. Lives in Miami. Likes to go out side at weekends for some chill. I do like travelling a lot. I have just read your article post and I really like it moreover it really helped me to get of the mark in teething tubes as I am associated with bebecan one of the leading teething toys company in USA.I really motivated and charged up after reading your post.Thanks for sharing this post.