Monday, June 13, 2011


For this post I wanted to talk about Goal Motivation, but more specifically goal specificity.  How many times do we set expectations for ourselves and they either fall flat, dissipate, and yet we cannot come to a conclusive reason as to why?  Our goal seemed reasonable enough.  It seemed to be within what we could have accomplished within the confines or time limits of what we were asked to do, so why the short coming?  Quite often, I find myself making vague goals so that I can have more "wiggle room" so that if I do not perform amazingly then it is of no disservice to me - I had no true expectation to begin with.

The problem with this theory is that in leaving the ultimate finished product of our goals up to interpretation by using a vague goal, we are in turn hurting ourselves. We think that we would be motivated to pursue the greatest possible outcome when there is no clear finish line, but as Deckers points out, that is clearly not the case.
Thus, the idea of goal specificity is introduced.  As defined by the text, goal specificity refers to how precise the goal is in contrast to how vague or unspecified it is.  In lament terms it is the level of which you are specific with your intended goal.  For example, I find that one of the main reasons that people are driven to seek out cognitive therapy is because they are unhappy and are seeking happiness, but cannot achieve it and want to know why.  But what are people and patients really saying when they feel that they are not reaching their goals of happiness?  Maybe it's not that happiness is unattainable, but their interpretation of the actual goal of happiness is what is in error. 

Happiness clearly holds a different definition for everybody.  However some people measure happiness but things, and others measure it as a state of mind.  For examply, happiness to me means health, a solid family unity, and feeling loved and appreciated. Those goals in and of themselves are vague enough that I may never entirely feel the most absolute feeling of "love and appreciation."  Therefore, that happiness is, in a way, unattainable because is is not measurable - there is not clear conclusion. At any given time one may not have the same level or intensity of appreciation.  As a result, my "happiness" is constantly in flux because those emotions are forever wavering - therefore my happiness does too.
But what about others who have absolute goals?  This brought me back to the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson movie, "The Bucket List."  It's a film about 2 elderly men who are at the end of their rope in their lives due to terminal illnesses.  Subsequently, they decide to make a bucket list of things they want to accomplish in order to die feeling that they have lived a full and complete life.  Here's a trailer of the movie below

At their age (and in their unique situations) ending their lives feeling that they had accomplished their goals and their happiness was all that they wanted to leave the world knowing.  The level of goal specificity is incredibly high between these two because they had direct tangible and measurable goals that could be directly attained.  The accomplishments of them achieving those goals were able to be judged the same way universally - they could be crossed off of a list. Whereas, me feeling loved and appreciated is open to adverse interpretation worldwide.   They were able to leave the world feeling absolute conclusion and accomplishment because their goals were absolute.  And in the end, they finish all of their entire list

I think it comes down to having a definitive balance between knowing what you want your ultimate goal to be while also understanding that flexibility and understanding is necessary because life is way too unpredictable to have any one definitive idea of goals like happiness.  But every goal is different.  Others have a precise requirement, such as the requirements to finish college - attaining the required amount of credits.  Therefore the goal is to pass all of the classes necessary to  obtain those credits.  However happiness and other abstract goals are much different because as life changes, the ultimate goal of them changes.  We need to be able to understand when there needs to be a difference in deciding our goals when it comes to goals that need flexibility and those that have a concrete and definitive end.

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