The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior, Pages 1-9


As mentioned in my first blog post, I recently started reading The Psychology of Action on Goggle Books. It is a 600+ page textbook full of amazing geekery on how our behavior is linked to motivation (the general desire or willingness of someone to do something) and cognition (the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses); and I love it! The first 9 pages gave me so much insight that my brain was on overload. I’m only going to mention a couple here however.

Over the last few years, I have set multiple goals, and failed at most of them. Particularly the goals surrounding my business. It was almost as if I could count on the opposite of my goal happening if I set a business goal and told someone about it. It has been torturous. Why was it that I could set and complete a goal to fast processed sweets for 6 weeks or redo my porch (which took 2 years to complete), but I could not for the life of me complete the vast majority of my business goals? Then in the process of attempting to attain the goals, at times my business would actually go in the opposite direction. It just didn’t make sense. How was it that I kept sabotaging myself? How did I continuously attract and enact bad behavior such as to undo my goals as fast as I could make them?

These and other related questions have been on my mind for awhile. I started noticing the pattern a couple years ago. So, after watching the Ted Talk “Keep Your Goals To Yourself,” and finding myself resonating with it, I decided to look up this Peter Gollwitzer. When I saw this book on goggle books, it called to me. I felt like I may find some of my answers there, and the first few pages did not disappoint.

Pages 1-5 introduce Part 1: Sounces and Contents of Actions Goals. This first part focuses on where goals come from, and why a person may be driven to set and execute a goal. From the summary, I am excited to get to chapter 4 wherein it talks about entity theory and incremental theory in relation to moral character and  intelligence. The notion that some people truly believe these two traits are fixed is fascinating. I consciously believe that improvements can be made to moral character and intelligent, and that failure is not the be all end all, but subconsciously I do not always act accordingly. I have this nasty habit of self-shaming, or taking my interpretation of others thoughts about me to heart, which then fixes my traits, instead of leading from my mistakes and moving on.

The first 2 1/2 pages of chapter 1: All Goals are not Created Equal, can be summoned up in one sentence – The authors are exploring Self-Determination Theory. This theory assumes that there are three basic psychological needs when setting goals: autonomy, relatedness and competence. I see all three of these factors playing out in my goal making decisions.  When I set goals for myself, I feel I want them to be autonomous from those around me. They are my goals, and no one else’s. I feel a need to relate to my goals and to have others relate to them if I share them. I also feel that the completion of my goals needs to help me feel competent. That I have learnt new skills and now “know what I am doing,” to a degree at least.

Now on to read the next section in the chapter about The Why of Behavior. Why do we do what we do when we set goals?


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