Setbacks Cause Us to Re-Evaluate Our Goals
When we suffer a setback on the path to reaching a goal, it can be difficult to get back on track. A team of researchers is focused on finding practical ways to help people stick to health-related goals, especially those that are essential to one’s health.
“These are some of the most difficult goals we face, because the effort has to become a way of life. If you’re a diabetic, you have to be thinking about your diet every time you eat,” says José Rosa, marketing professor in Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and part of the research team. “In many ways, it is sacrificial. You must endure this cost and the reward is health.”
The reward, though, may not be immediate and is often difficult to realize with certain conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Other health issues can further complicate and delay the outcome of our initial goal, making it seem like our efforts aren’t working. Rosa says this makes it harder to stick to the initial goal.
Through simulations of different situations, the researchers explored how crisis can influence motivation and commitment. In some of these situations, participants faced an action crisis, which is a point during the pursuit of a goal when circumstances (related or not to the goal) change and we begin to question whether the goal really matters. Participants answered questions to determine how they would react in their simulated situation.
The results, which were published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, found that people often reassess the cost-benefits of their goals and consider quitting after suffering a setback or difficulty. According to Rosa, we shift our mindset from implementation to evaluation, re-examining the importance of outcomes, and we may decide to give up, concluding it is no longer worth it.
Using data from these experiments, the researchers are now looking to develop interventions for patients on prescribed health regimens. Rosa says that this would entail providing specific instructions for patients to follow as well as finding ways to help them shift their mindset from re-evaluation back to implementation.
Coaching could be a great fit for these interventions, since it can help people shift mindsets and remain accountable to themselves and their goals.