Research has found that having clarity about your goals is essential to having the motivation to achieve those goals. Which is why seemingly easy tasks, like sending a fax, could end up taking months. Unfortunately, having a lack of clarity is why so many people settle for less than their dreams. Related: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals.
The path to achieving your goals is far from obvious. According to some scholars , fear of the unknown might be the foundation of all other fears. In order to avoid the unknown, most people bail on their dreams. Most people perceive the unknown as threatening, signifying a low tolerance for ambiguity. But some people are more open to the unknown. Interestingly, researchers have found that children generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguity than adults.
Children are often more willing to accept murky conditions—situations where the likelihood of winning or losing is unknown. As you get older though, your desire for surety and security keeps you safely protected in your comfort zone. Research has found that the more satisfied you are with your work, the higher your tolerance for ambiguity. The emotional need for clarity and fear of the unknown leads people to abandon their dreams for more straightforward pursuits. Having goal clarity is essential to motivation. Consequently, in order to get motivated to achieve your big dreams, you need clarity.
But this does not mean you have it all figured out. This is the process and emotional experience of pursuing a big dream. When you seek learning , it should be purposeful. And no one can make my decisions for me.
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Because when you know what you want to learn, you can then decide who can help you get there. Only you can decide the direction of your training. Research has found that self-directed learning is highly correlated with learning satisfaction.
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Thus, what you learn should clearly connect with your interests and goals. How the Mormon church trains their young missionaries to speak foreign languages so efficiently has garnered lots of attention. When an or year-old enters the Missionary Training Center MTC , they enter something of a language learning boot camp.
Students at the MTC learn in a few weeks what takes most college students three to four years. The U. Military has also studied and teamed with the MTC to better understand how to efficiently train their soldiers. Primarily, the MTC uses context-based learning. Bowi yielded similar intra-individual coefficients of 0. Using RT methods Schneider, , participants pressed buttons as quickly as possible to identify whether letters displayed one at a time on the lower half of a computer screen were an X or a Y.
Participants were instructed to ignore distractor stimuli, many of them words, that often appeared at a fixation point above the letters. After this procedure, subjects rated how much each distractor word aroused them emotionally. Letter identification slowed significantly when the distractor words were rated as emotionally arousing.
That this effect really was attributable to something emotional is supported by the fact that participants who scored high on the Affective Intensity Measure Larsen and Diener, were slowed by emotionally arousing distractors significantly more than other participants were. Additional data on the relation of emotional arousal to goal cues were obtained with skin conductance responses Nikula et al. In the first of three experiments, 19 American participants participated in two separate sessions. The first session consisted of completing the CDQ Klinger et al.
The mean range-corrected proportional increase in skin conductance for intervals extending to 5 s after the end of stimulus clusters was 0. This made it desirable to attempt a different kind of research design using a thought-sampling procedure. In Experiments 2 German students and 3 24 German students , the signal tones to rate thoughts during electrodermal measurement were sounded either when experimenters observed non-specific i.
Experiments 2 and 3 differed only in the larger number of scales in Experiment 3 on which participants orally rated their thoughts at each sampling point. These ratings were on a scale ranging from 0 not present to 5 fully present. The mean ratings for current-concern-relatedness were 2. Together, these findings indicate through electrodermal measures that internally generated goal-related cues are either preceded or closely accompanied by emotional arousal.
That the difference in ratings of arousal was weaker than those of concern-relatedness may indicate that the arousal is often not consciously experienced. Another investigation Smallwood et al. Although the sample was small, the correlations between TUT frequency and heart rate were substantial. For three task conditions the ordinal correlations were 0. One possible implication is that goal-related thoughts during TUTs are associated with emotional arousal. However, EEG evidence is at least suggestive, in the form of associations between responses to emotionally evocative stimuli — both words and pictures — and positive deflections in the EEG trace in a band beginning at about ms after stimulus onset the P response.
This nomological net is reviewed elsewhere Klinger, Its implications are that the processing of emotionally loaded material begins about a third of a second after stimulus onset. Because of its association with the emotionality of stimuli at a point when the arousal is not yet conscious, I have dubbed this kind of response protoemotional. In this view, the protoemotional response constitutes a first step in processing of stimuli; whether processing continues, and whether it eventually engages other bodily systems, such as circulatory, glandular, pulmonary, or intestinal activity, depends on conditioned responses and cognitive assessments of the importance, valence, and expectancies of whatever it is that the stimuli represent.
Insofar as emotionally evocative stimuli are also goal-related stimuli, having a goal — a current concern — controls much of what it is to which people attend.
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There is one more kind of association involving emotion. There is evidence that inducing negative moods increases mind-wandering, perhaps because it potentiates personal concerns Smallwood et al. When internal cues are associated with threat, they may set up a repetitive sequence of ruminative thoughts. For a full review of repetitive thought, see Watkins, The findings described above provide a ready explanation for ruminative sequences.
Hence one ruminates. Once the person has extracted all of the lessons offered by these past events, further repetition is unhelpful, and the rumination is likely mainly to lower mood even further. Individuals with personalities high in negative affect are particularly vulnerable to this pattern. Apart from mulling the past, the individual, under the pressure of prospective loss or failure, may already be somewhat depressed, and the emotional tone of the ruminative sequences is likely to deepen that depression even further Nolen-Hoeksema et al.
It is important not to confuse these findings with an impression sown by the title and summary of an article by Killingsworth and Gilbert , that mind-wandering as such lowers mood. That is not what their data actually showed. Their participants rated Participants rated mood as sharply below overall average and below the scale midpoint only during the A similar result emerged from a conventional questionnaire study Mar et al.
That is, the association of daydreaming patterns with affect varied significantly but weakly with daydream content. There was no consistent association with daydreaming frequency as such. Killingsworth and Gilbert also performed time-lag analyses whose results found lower mood in samples obtained after a mind-wandering episode than after a non-mind-wandering episode, but these episodes were on average hours apart, sometimes separated by a night, which suggests that something other than the fact of individual mind-wandering episodes accounted for this result.
Their finding is also inconsistent with the results of another investigation that found no overall effect of mind-wandering on mood 15 min later Poerio, When the individual is in a situation conducive to making progress toward attaining a goal, the response to goal cues takes the form of actions or operant mental acts that advance the goal pursuit. This idea is intuitively obvious, but its elaborations become complicated. Whether a person views a situation as conducive to pursuing a particular goal depends on a decision process that takes into account the anticipated relative gains and losses arising from a particular course of action in comparison with alternative courses of action possible in that situation.
An elaborate research area has grown up around this decision process, which one can generally subsume under Expectancy X Value theory in psychology and Expected Utility theory in economics. This theory, together with recent neuroscientific findings that support it, is briefly reviewed elsewhere Klinger and Cox, If the individual becomes actively operant in pursuing the goal, the situation is transformed into one similar to experimental task activity.
However, to clarify the relation of the default-mode network to goal-directed action, this network becomes active more broadly than simply during mind-wandering or simply in the absence of operant activity. It is activated during states of unfocused external attention Stawarczyk et al.
Moreover, this activity cannot be accounted for by task-related interferences or external distractions Stawarczyk et al. In a compelling experimental dissection, Smallwood et al. The important point for present purposes is that the activated default-mode network may facilitate an operant response that depends on an internal focus, such as retrieval from memory. Previous evidence using less focal behavioral activities is consistent with these findings. For example, Spreng et al. Earlier, a meta-analysis by Spreng et al.
These results clearly suggest that the default-mode network is activated during a variety of perceptually decoupled mental activities. It thus appears that although the respondent components of mind-wandering may depend on the default-mode network, they are far from the only activity supported by that network. When tasks make large demands on processing, the necessary shift of mental resources from the default-mode network to executive regions is harder to attain with advancing age Persson et al.
Mind-wandering activity is also modulated in accordance with the factors described below under Principle 5. When circumstances are unfavorable for goal-directed operant behavior, whether in action or thought, the response to cues of a goal remains largely mental, as in mind-wandering and dreaming, but still reflects the content of the goal pursuit or thematically associated content. The evidence for the goal-relatedness of such respondent mentation is discussed above under Principle 1 e. Although such respondent mental content is generally conscious, in the sense that it is at least partly reportable in response to sampling probes, memory for it is often short median of 5 s per content segment; Klinger, and it may occur without current awareness.
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For example, when people were asked to indicate whenever they were aware of having mind-wandered, those reports were much less frequent than the mind-wandering that was found to take place with experience-sampling probes Schooler et al. Furthermore, extent of activation in various brain regions of the default-mode network differs somewhat according to whether individuals are aware or unaware of their mind-wandering. One reason that people mind-wander much more than they are aware of doing may be that mind-wandering and the meta-awareness of doing so engage some of the same brain structures, such as the anterior prefrontal cortex, so that when occupied by mind-wandering these structures cannot also create awareness of the mind-wandering Schooler et al.
Thus, energy goes into mind-wandering without the mind-wanderer being aware that it is going on. Why would our species have evolved such extensive mind-wandering? Actually, this state of not thinking directedly appears to confer a number of benefits for cognitive functioning Christoff et al. This section reviews evidence regarding its functions. First among these is the role of mind-wandering states in advancing people toward their goals. Thus, thought samples indicate that the content of mind-wandering includes planning elements, which strongly suggests it fulfills a planning function Baird et al.
There are numerous anecdotal reports of important creative insights attained during states that foster mind-wandering e.
Early on, Singer and Schonbar had found that a psychometric, self-report measure of how much graduate students in education daydreamed correlated 0. Reviewing the challenges one faces, as in mind-wandering, promotes the incubation of creative problem-solving in a way that improves subsequent performance. Thus, interposing an opportunity for mind-wandering during an undemanding task between two administrations of Unusual Uses problems leads to better subsequent performance in solving those problems on a second try than after interposing a demanding task that discourages mind-wandering Baird et al.
Consistent with these findings, the brain regions of the default-mode network substantially overlap those that come into play in the early stages of creative thinking about something, such as the medial prefrontal cortex. There are further likely benefits of mind-wandering.
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It appears that people whose minds wander more than others are also likely to display more patience with receiving rewards and hence make better decisions. Smallwood et al. Delay discounting measures the extent to which people settle for smaller immediate rewards rather than wait for larger, delayed rewards.
For example, in the study by Smallwood et al. Considering only the undemanding task, which permitted considerable mind-wandering, those whose minds wandered more than others also were more likely to choose one of the larger but later rewards than the small immediate reward. In this correlational design, it is impossible to establish causal direction. Does tending toward more mind-wandering provide more opportunity for reflection or more insulation from distracting external stimuli, as Smallwood et al. Or does a more restrained decision process or greater trust elicit more mind-wandering?
Or are both attributes attributable to some more fundamental property of personality? In any event, mind-wandering is here associated with making sounder choices. For example, Ellenbogen et al. The training consisted of learning the ordinal relationships between pairs of these stimuli that were of adjacent ranks. This task required participants to exercise inference — to extrapolate from what they had learned during their training experience. With only a 20 min interval after training, participants had little ability to perform this extrapolation task.
After 12 or 24 h, however, their performance improved considerably. However, participants who slept during part of the assigned overnight h interval performed better on inferences across two degrees of separation than those who had been assigned the daytime h interval, who presumably stayed awake.
It appears that for the awake participants the opportunities for undirected, respondent thought such as mind-wandering fostered the consolidation process, although not as well as in sleep. Thus Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues e. These studies employed a variety of goals, such as finding employment, study abroad, improved academic performance, and interpersonal relationships. In some studies, participants wrote down fantasy elements and in others their fantasies remained purely mental. It is not unreasonable to extrapolate, subject to future confirmation, that insofar as the prospective fantasies of mind-wandering contain elements that promote planning, people are at an advantage in attaining their corresponding goals.
The factors that determine the amount of mind-wandering are therefore relevant to determining the contents of waking thought. Hence the importance of Principle 5: spontaneous-seeming respondent responses as in mind-wandering are more likely 1 the more that an individual is momentarily mentally unoccupied with ongoing tasks, or 2 occupied with easy tasks that place fewer demands for operant resources, and 3 the less that is at stake for the person in an ongoing activity.
Also, 4 focused perceptual activity, such as scanning a room to find someone, temporarily suppresses thought. Principle 5 has been well-supported in behavioral research, and recent neurocognitive studies are beginning to provide reasons for it. After all, the default network was discovered as a result of researchers in brain-imaging studies observing regularities in brain activity when participants were between their assigned tasks Raichle et al. An early investigation Antrobus et al. First, the rate at which participants had to make judgments and the difficulty of the task detect a tone of a particular frequency versus detect a change in frequency from the previous tone both significantly affected reports of task-irrelevant thoughts.
That is, the more demanding the task, the less minds wandered. Second, when the investigators instituted money penalties of differing sizes for missing target signals, higher penalties led to fewer reports of task-irrelevant thoughts This finding actually applied only to the male participants, for reasons that are unclear. Third, between sets of such trials in their Experiment 3 the investigators Antrobus et al. The effect on the subsequent set of signal-detection trials was clear: compared with the control group, strongly increased rates of reported task-irrelevant thoughts.
Later inquiry revealed, unsurprisingly, that many of the TUTs by participants in the experimental condition related to the impact on them of the supposed entry by the Chinese into the war. Finally, Antrobus et al. This was presumably an effect of fatigue, or perhaps also of boredom. Subsequent research has confirmed these conditions that govern the tendency for minds to wander. One prominent determinant, as in Antrobus et al.
Giambra found TUTs more frequent with less demanding vigilance tasks. He reports on other experiments with similar effects, but the difficulty of the reading tasks they used appears not to have affected the frequency of TUTs. Difficulty levels of texts may affect TUTs differently than more controlled, brief task units. Feng et al. It may well be that when texts become sufficiently difficult, readers have trouble maintaining the stream of absorbing the text meaningfully, with correspondingly more frequent lapses into mind-wandering.
One way to vary load without changing tasks is by giving participants varying degrees of practice with a task. This is the approach taken by Mason et al. Activity levels of the default-mode network varied with the task conditions similarly to SIT rates. These relationships between patterns of brain activity and mind-wandering were confirmed and extended by Christoff et al. The investigation by Mason et al. With little variation across the six recording sites, the mean of the mean correlations was 0. These strong correlations both validate the daydreaming frequency scale of the IPI and establish the close association of the default-mode network with mind-wandering, which is one form — most likely by far the largest — of daydreaming.
The connection is close but not exclusive. See above the work by Christoff et al. There were a number of partial precedents for these findings: SITs associated with medial prefrontal cortex McGuire et al.
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In each case the investigators suggested that the stimulus-independent and task-unrelated thoughts may represent the kind of self-generated or self-oriented thoughts common in mind-wandering. Forster and Lavie varied perceptual load, defined here operationally as, for example, detecting a letter on a screen surrounded by letters that look similar to the target letter, a task that requires close inspection of the various letters, versus letters that look quite different from the target, in which the target letter is easily discriminable.
Andrews-Hanna et al. This investigation also found a number of important features linking activity in various brain regions to the content of spontaneous thought. Especially, activity in the medial temporal lobe correlated with default-mode activity when participants reported thinking about something in the past or the future. Teasdale et al. As compared with quiet conditions, both of these procedures significantly reduced the number of SITs by half or more. In a second experiment, Teasdale et al.
Participants in all three conditions had to decide whether displayed sentences were silly. Compared with a quiet condition, conditions in which they also tapped their fingers more than halved the number of their SITs. A third experiment investigated the effects of having practiced a task, which consisted either of tracking a point on a pursuit rotor or memorization of digits.
Practice permits some automatization of task behavior and hence relieves the need for conscious control. There were fewer than half as many SITs while performing novel as compared with practiced tasks. Finally, in a fourth experiment, Teasdale et al. They did this not by counting SITs but by assigning a task of continuously generating random numbers, which were recorded, and then examining lapses from randomness in the 20 numbers generated before a thought probe.
On the assumptions that generating random numbers is difficult enough to make significant demands on central executive processes, and that central executive resources are necessary for producing SITs, Teasdale et al. They confirmed this hypothesis, with a difference of a bit less than half a standard deviation.
This formulation is consistent with the generalization that mind-wandering occurs less often during more demanding tasks. What it does not explain is why, in the absence of task activity, the brain automatically reverts to the default-mode network, and why mental activity automatically reverts to mind-wandering, as the baseline, default states of brain and mind. McKiernan et al. The difficulty levels were reflected in corresponding differences in accuracy and time on target, thus verifying the manipulation of difficulty.
In all but one of the tested regions, increased difficulty led to increased deactivation of some regions subsequently associated with the default-mode network. Even the easiest conditions produced some significant deactivation. Besides the observations that mind-wandering was more frequent during relaxed states or work on undemanding tasks, under these conditions self-generated thoughts were more often focused on the future than on the past Klinger and Cox, — ; Smallwood et al. Under more demanding conditions, this prospective bias disappeared Smallwood et al.
Also, working memory capacity has been reported inversely associated with everyday mind-wandering during resource-demanding activities Kane et al. In the latter condition, perhaps the drain on working memory saps its availability for building scenarios of the future.
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With regard to the effect on mind-wandering of what people have at stake, Kool and Botvinick examined the amount of time participants spent on a demanding or an undemanding task in sessions in which they could freely shift from one to the other. Demanding-task trials, which, based on previous evidence, presumably reduced the opportunity for mind-wandering, were rewarded with candy pieces, whereas trials with undemanding tasks were not rewarded at all. Participants were allowed to switch back and forth between the two types of task within sessions. The time they spent with demanding tasks decreased after a wage decrease and increased after a wage increase.
The fact that these participants chose some unrewarded trials is consistent with having a need for freer mental activity, as in mind-wandering, and the shift toward more unrewarded trials when the wages for rewarded, demanding trials decreased indicates that mind-wandering decreases when there is more at stake in the assigned task. Mind-wandering has a well-established inverse relationship to a variety of performance measures e. Unsworth and McMillan thought-sampled TUTs and obtained laboratory measures of working memory capacity and a number of self-report measures: motivation for the task, interest in the topic, and previous experience with the subject matter.
They found that, of these, motivation for the reading task was the strongest predictor In combination with the findings of Kool and Botvinick and the original findings of Antrobus et al. We can't move forward without goals. Small goals lead to big accomplishments. Short-term goals create long-term achievements. Professional goals can help us realize our personal goals.
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