…on the self-chosen topic of willpower, goals, motivation and temptation:
If you must make resolutions, it’s preferable to make tiny individual ones, repeatedly throughout the year, rather than multiple, ambitious ones at the start of it. Research by the psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, based on diary entries collected from hundreds of American employees, concludes that regular minor accomplishments-“small wins”-contribute much more to happiness than do occasional, bigger ones: contrary to what you might expect, the satisfactions of a bigger achievement aren’t proportionately larger or more long-lasting. Tiny goals, even absurdly tiny ones, can be an effective way to sneak under the radar of your mind, which always stands ready to procrastinate on, or otherwise resist, bigger ambitions: you might laugh at the idea of doing 15 seconds of exercise, but for exactly that reason, you’re also much less likely to resist it. (The next day, make it 20 seconds, and so on.)
A wiser approach may be to set “process” goals: instead of specifying a target salary, commit to spending two hours a week investigating career opportunities. Rather than deciding to write the novel of the century, commit to 45 minutes of writing every morning. “Nothing discourages the concentration necessary to perform well,” writes the sports psychologist John Eliot, in his book, Overachievement, more than “worrying about the outcome.” Or try the process-goal method used by Jerry Seinfeld early in his career, when he was determined to spend some time every day writing jokes. On a wall calendar, he marked an X every day that he got some writing done, gradually creating a chain of X’s: “Your only job … is to not break the chain.” It’s a mechanical, nonintimidating target. If Seinfeld had aimed instead at “becoming a world-famous comedian,” might he have sabotaged his success?
Mental note: Stop hyperventilating/ worrrying/ hair-pulling/ stressing/ panicking over MC Elevator Pitch!