To Complete Goals, Concentrate on ‘The Big Picture’ (Not Subgoals)

To help con­trol and man­age pro­gress on a dif­fi­cult or long-term goal, we often split that goal into many indi­vidu­al sub­goals. Once we begin to com­plete these sub­goals, our con­tin­ued motiv­a­tion and pro­gress toward the main, or super­or­din­ate, goal can be com­prom­ised.

A study pub­lished in the Journ­al of Per­son­al­ity and Social Psy­cho­logy in 2006 shows that by put­ting people in mind of their sub­goal suc­cesses or on their main goal com­mit­ment causes drastic dif­fer­ences in their future effort (the lat­ter is bet­ter):

The authors show that when people con­sider suc­cess on a single sub­goal, addi­tion­al actions toward achiev­ing a super­or­din­ate goal are seen as sub­sti­tutes and are less likely to be pur­sued. In con­trast, when people con­sider their com­mit­ment to a super­or­din­ate goal on the basis of ini­tial suc­cess on a sub­goal, addi­tion­al actions toward achiev­ing that goal may seem to be com­ple­ment­ary and more likely to be pur­sued.

via Derek Sivers (Yep, via the post I linked-to in my pre­vi­ous post. I felt that this needed its own post as I wanted to provide a bal­anced view on the study, not just say­ing, some­what incor­rectly, “suc­cess on one sub-goal […] reduced efforts on oth­er import­ant sub-goals”.)