July 09, 2010

The benefits of being without goals

In a test of creativity, a researcher discovered an unexpected advantage in subjects with willingness rather than willfulness:

Psychologist Ibrahim Senay of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign figured out an intriguing way to explore intention, motivation and goal–directed actions. Senay did this by exploring self–talk — that voice in your head that articulates what you are thinking, spelling out your options and intentions. Senay thought that self–talk might be a tool for exerting the will — or being willing.

It is the difference between “Will I do this?” and “I will do this.” [Q]uestions by their nature speak to possibility and freedom of choice. Meditating on them might enhance feelings of autonomy and intrinsic motivation, creating a mind–set that promotes success.

People with wondering minds completed significantly more anagrams than did those with willful minds. In other words, the people who kept their minds open were more goal–directed and more motivated than those who declared their objective to themselves.

Setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive.

From Scientific American  [via]

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