Cheating On Goals Can Paradoxically Boost Motivation To Succeed

When it is better to give in to temptation.

high-fat diet

When it is better to give in to temptation.

Self-compassion is one of the steps in my new motivation ebook: “Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything”

It can be a long and winding road to meet long-term goals to transform the self.

Self-compassion helps us to deal with the inevitable slip-ups along the way.

Similarly, a new study finds that planning to cheat on long-term goals can paradoxically be beneficial to motivation.

Researchers found that dieters who had one planned ‘naughty day’ per week found it easier to stick to their diet…

…and they reported higher motivation and more pleasure.

They also lost the same amount of weight as those who did not have a ‘naughty day’.

Keeping rigidly to weight-loss restrictions, always saving money and so on can exhaust our powers of self-control.

The study’s authors explain:

“…abstinence and inhibition of certain behaviors or products frequently leads to “irresistible urges” and cravings that are difficult to restrain.

This may lead to the breakdown of self-regulation and a snowballing to complete loss of control.

The present findings indicate a straightforward and new technique for effective self-management.

They show that it is important to plan hedonic moments in goal pursuit when it is “good to be bad,” and that this enhances the likelihood of goal attainment.”

In other words: it’s OK for you to relax your rules once in a while.

One of the keys, though, seems to be that the lapses are planned in advance.

The study’s author continue:

“Unplanned goal deviations may feel as failures and thus set a “failure cascade” in motion, with a “what-the-hell”effect as result, such that goals are completely abandoned.

Quite the contrary happens when hedonic goal deviations areplanned.

Then, they may contribute positively to strengthen several factors that have been shown to aid goal-attainment.

Of course, goal deviations should be minor and temporary, else becoming the norm rather than the exception to it.

Butt he goal deviations can still be substantial; in fact they constituted almost 15% of the activity, one-day of the week, in one of our experiments.”

For the study, the researchers also looked at people who were striving for a variety of different goals including saving money and developing healthier habits.

The authors conclude:

“…rather that engaging in straight, persistent goal-striving which is often recommended in the applied, self-help literature, and some academic goal literature, our experiments indicate that consumers may be better off, when planning for moments of indulgence.

Intermittent goal striving appears to be a powerful strategy to increase goal-persistence.”

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (do Vale et al., 2016).

Eating cake image from Shutterstock

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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