We came across “3 mental blocks that keep you from doing what you say you want to do,” by Daniella Belarezo, published on ideas.ted.com. This article explains the psychological factors that prevent people from accomplishing their goals as well as ways to get past mental barriers. While this is not the sort of article we normally write about, it gives good insight into perhaps why members of management are not always effective at implementing best practices and why employees may not always follow those best practices. It is common for these goals to be activities that you want to do but don’t particularly enjoy such as exercising or finishing an extensive project. According to Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist and coach, the reason that people do not complete their goals is due to what she calls defensive failure. According to the article, Defensive failure is a term that is used to characterize having the desire to achieve something, thinking about it often, but failing to do it. After years of research, Crowell discovered three mindset blocks that contribute to defensive failure, which will be discussed below.
The first mindset that prevents people from achieving their goals is the belief that they cannot accomplish them. Crowell uses her own story to illustrate this mindset block. She decided that she wanted to start exercising because she was out of shape. On her first run, her pants were too loose and had no pocket for her phone, which forced her to hold up her pants with one hand and her phone in the other. Clearly this was a very uncomfortable experience. She explains that having a negative first-time experience, like the above, is enough to make a lot of people believe that they simply don’t have what it takes to complete their goal. She shares how to overcome this belief by using a “growth mindset.” This allows the people to see their mistakes or failures as part of the process. People who use this mindset consider a setback to be a good learning opportunity that will be applicable in the future.
The second belief that prevents people from doing what they want to do is that people like them are never good at it. A good example would be a shy or introverted person who wants to present his/her project idea at the next department meeting. The individual may think of other introverts in the office and realize that they tend to keep quiet at meetings and let their more outspoken coworkers take charge. He/she may already feel nervous that the idea will not be well perceived and may decide to stay quiet with the others. According to Crowell, if you are struggling with this mindset, it is a good idea to find similar individuals who have had success at what you wish to accomplish. You can use these people as role models. If possible, you can even meet with them and ask how they had success.
The third mental block occurs when people feel like they need to do something but don’t actually want to do it. Crowell discuses intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations are internal. For example, people may wish to lose weight to reduce pain and increase energy. Extrinsic motivations are those that come from outside sources. Using the weight loss example, others may start a weight loss program because they know that family members are worried about their health. Crowell explains that people are more likely to achieve their goals if they have intrinsic motivations. She advises that people should dig deep to find their intrinsic motivation and use it as a source of energy to accomplish what they wish to do.
Everyone falls into the trap of defensive failure at some point in their life. Some people may believe that they can never accomplish a goal because of who they are. They may even group themselves with “similar” people who could never achieve what they wish to do. Other people may fail to realize their intrinsic motivations and give up due to lack of willpower and energy. Regardless of what is holding your employees or you back, knowing this information may help you to ensure that best practices are implemented to protect your organization and your coworkers.