Approach & Avoidance Goals
What we're gonna do today is we're going to shift our gears just a little bit. So if we think about where we've gone the last couple of days, right, we started by thinking about habits, right? So we actually started very, very beginning, right? Two days ago. It seems like forever ago, right? It sze amazing it's fast and slow at the same time. But two days ago, we started by talking about howto learn effectively, right? Thought the idea, the role of three that you're gonna remember roughly three things about situations. And then we dove in tow habits the formula for habits consistent mapping tze and repetition howto how that motivational system works. The ghost system to stop system. We talked about howto create plans to do things that will help youto get things done. Mohr effectively. Then we talk about your personality on day too, you know, and we just had a little review of some of some personality characteristics, which was great. The idea is now that you understand some of the indi...
vidual differences about yourself. You can understand how to implement those habits in a way that's best for you, but also to interact with other people more effectively. We talked about ways of influencing yourself and others using the environment using the people around you you know how to break through those silo walls, whether those silo walls or because you're part of a big organization or just because you may be an individual or a small group working in a larger community, how do you really create those neighborhoods? That's where we went and now we want to really put those habits into overdrive and use those to make us a cz effective as we can possibly be in the world. So we're going to start actually with an interesting topic that's a transition, we're going to talk about feelings, you might say, what in the world we've got? We've been talking about habits why do we care about feelings? Well, it turns out that, you know, we've talked about this idea that that, uh, that your motivational system involves this ghost system buried deep inside your brain, and it doesn't communicate that well with the rest of your brain. In fact, the way that that motivational system communicates with the rest of your brain is through the feelings that you experience that's actually your best under the best wayto under sand the way your motivational system is working or not working is through the feelings you have, and so we need teo use that to understand how it is that those feelings are affecting our ability to get things done what it's telling us about the success or failure we're having with our goals and how to use that effectively so we're gonna start with that and then we're going to talk for the rest of the day about how to use our habits to do something interesting how to use our habits to make us more creative and more innovative okay, so we're going to talk about the kinds of knowledge you need in order to be really effective in the world we're going to talk about how to use that knowledge in the best possible way and we're going to talk at the very end of the day about how to create some new habits so that if you get stuck solving a problem that you find the best possible way to define that problem to help you to really be smarter, right? So so these so far we've we've helped you to be more effective in the world by the time you leave today you'll not only be more effective, you'll be smarter and you'll help everyone else and you're in your world to be both more effective and smarter at the same time so we're just we just have a small goal for today, right? So I'm pumped I'm psyched to feel it is great and it isn't just too much caffeine I'm really excited so let's dive into this um when we talked about goals right we've talked about the fact that there are these two distinct kinds of goals in the world ok, we talked about the idea that some of the goals we have or what we could call approach goals approach goals of the desirable things in the world the stuff we really want to achieve the things that are desirable for us in our world and it could be simple things like making a friend or or doing well when you're giving a talk somewhere they could be succeeding in business or making money but they're the desirable things it might just be having a good ice cream right? I mean all of that so I'm coming I shouldn't talk about ice cream that gets its we've already we've already talked about my issues with ice cream so so but these air the desirable states of the world and we really want to approach these desirable state and then sometimes we have things we want to avoid okay? It could be you know I want to stay healthy so I want to avoid getting sick um it might be that I want to avoid negative interactions at work you know, sometimes you're working for a company and the company isn't succeeding in quite the way you want and you're just worried about him I'm gonna lose my job you are my colleagues going to lose jobs I mean, you know that's an avoidance situation as well and when you're in these approach states versus avoidance states, this can really influence the way that you act in the world now the problem is right so so again, let me put the finest point on this I can your motivational system involves these mechanisms right there deep inside your brain we talked about the fact that you know, you cut into your brain again those two boxing gloves side by side set the wrong way around thumb you know, the fingers of the boxing glove, all that grey stuff on the outside you cut deep into the brain, you get that white matter under the surface than you keep cutting in you get maura of the gray stuff deep in the brain that's your motivational where your motivational system really has a lot of it's it's centers okay? The circuits that are involved in motivation really passed through those areas deep in the brain and so all of that wonderful thinking stuff that's on the outside of the brain doesn't connect that well with your motivational system. And so this is again, we talked about this the other day, but this is one of the reasons why people need therapy, right? Because because when you're trying to pursue these goals, your brain knows what it's doing but the you that that that that inner monologue that you have that that you're consciously aware of it doesn't quite know why you're doing what you're doing, so how can you begin to understand what your motivational system is doing? Well, part of the way that you do that is by monitoring the feelings that you have in the emotions that you experience, because that begins to tell you something about what it is that your motivational system is doing, and I've got this little table here to help you to understand that. So I mentioned we have these two kinds of goals. We have approached goals, we have avoidance goals, the approach goals or the desirable things we're trying to achieve, the avoidance goals or those undesirable things we're trying to avoid. Now, how can you know whether you're in an approach st oran an avoidance state? I mean, how do you know? Well, you can tell by the emotional experience that you have. And the way I like to lay this out is to just give a simple example. Let's imagine that you walk into ah into ah medical clinic and there are two women sitting sitting in the waiting room, and each one of them thinks that they might be pregnant. So each one of them thinks she might be pregnant now for one of those women she has desperately wanted a child for years she just she really wants to have a kid so for her having a baby is an approach goal it's a desirable state of the world the other woman really this is not the right time for her to have a child she really really doesn't want to be pregnant for her having a child is in avoiding school okay now let's think about the emotions that they might experience depending on the situation so this woman for whom having a baby's an approach goal okay so she really wants out this baby she goes into the doctor to get the news about her pregnancy tests and the doctor says you are in fact pregnant for her she is happy excited elated joyful right now if she finds out unfortunately she's not pregnant she sad dejected depressed so happy sad those of the emotions that are related to these approach goals okay now let's consider the other woman for a moment this is a woman she desperately doesn't want to be pregnant if she goes into the doctor and she finds out that she is in fact not pregnant she's not happy and elated and excited she doesn't go yes she goes right it's relief you know and if she finds out she is pregnant she's not sad really she stressed anxious, frightened okay so when you have these avoidance goals, then the emotions that you experience our emotions of fear, anxiety or relief calmness ok, so this is really important because it helps us to understand a little bit a little something about the relationship between our emotions and the kinds of goals that we're experiencing one reason why this matters is because I get a lot of people who will say to me, you know what? I'm really stressed at work all the time and I want to be happy at work, you know I want to be joyful at work I want to experience them joy at work and really all experiences stress how do I go from being stressed to being happy will notice there's no direct path right from being happy, you know, from from being stressed to being happy you can't get you can't get here from there. What do you do? Well if you're stressed that's a reflection that you are spending your work life trying to avoid disaster and if you spend your work life trying to avoid disaster than you're spending all of your time in this avoidance mode you're you're trying to avoid problems and you can't be happy. The best possible case in situations in which you spend your life trying to avoid disaster is that you might be relieved you know, another day that the ship didn't sink wow, you know that's great if I want to experience real joy in the workplace, though, it means I have to shift from trying to avoid negative outcomes to really trying to achieve some positive outcome. I have to totally change my orientation if I want to really be joyful and happy, I have to be focused on how can I, uh, what is some positive outcome that I really want to experience at work? So if you find yourself stressed a lot and you really want to be joyful, you have to think about what is it that I'm spending my time trying to avoid? What are those responsibilities, that air weighing me down, the things I ought to be doing and shift yourself from those those responsibilities to what do I really want to achieve, what's that ideal outcome for me that I'd like to have? And if you focus yourself on those beautiful, wonderful, desirable things in your work life, or in your personal life that you'd like to achieve, then you open yourself up to the real possibility of having happiness and joy in your life, as opposed to just stress with occasional pockets of relief. Okay, yes, I think I might be in the habit of feeling, um, that a goal is avoidance, but it's really approach, for example, house cleaning for my husband and I we will dread it and put it off and put it off and put it off, but while we're housecleaning, we're actually having so much fun and every single time we say, wow, isn't this fun? We should remember it for next time so that we because we're having fun and we're happy while we're doing all right. So how do I change that? Those feelings before, right? So that's the thing, this is great. We're gonna we're gonna work. Actually gonna talk a little bit more about this in a second. But let's, just start with this. Almost everything in life has both approach and avoidance potential to it. House cleaning is a great example, right? On the one hand, you think, uh, got to clean the house. It's a responsibility, it's the thing I ought to be doing. You worry. If you worry about it's going to be boring, there's got to be something that might be more fun to dio. And then when you're in the middle of it, you realize actually this is so bad. I kind of enjoy this. Not only did I enjoy the activity itself, I also enjoy the outcome that it creates. You know, it makes me feel good to be in a house that's clean, and there are these these approach components, so actually let me explain why it is you have that experience because this is this actually gets to exactly the next slide. I couldn't. You know, I didn't plant this question, but I could have, um, why, you know, so so here, this is this is greatest. Perfect. Um, this actually comes out of this. This little graph right here comes out of research that got in the night you got done in the nineteen fifties by guy named neil miller, and he did it with rats. So when? When I talk about this, this this notion of approach and avoidance. Okay, in early on, in research, this was actually literally approaching avoidance, not just kind of figuratively when we think, you know, as a human, that I'm approaching a positive outcome in a kind of metaphorical way. They would actually do this with animals. They would take rats, for example, and they would put a rat and they would measure the strength of a goal. Now I taught have talked about how strongly is a goal active when you measuring with a rat, you actually talk about strength in a literal sense. What they would do is they would attach a little tether to a rat measure, how strongly did it pull either towards something positive as it was approaching it? Or how strongly didn't pull away from something when it was avoiding it right? I mean it was literally strength and so what neil miller did was he would put a rat in a in an environment with either something really pleasant write something really positive that it was trying to approach or something really negative that it was trying to avoid a measure how strongly is a rat pulling either towards the positive thing or away from the negative thing? And he discovered something really interesting if you have something really positive okay, so let's say, you know if you're a rat I don't know that's like cheese or something you know? So you got some some good food there if you're far away from it the rat is pulling towards it and then the nearer it gets to the food the more strongly a pole so if you're far away, you're sort of pulling a bit because it's over there when you get really close to what you're really pulling strongly right so that the gold gets stronger the nearer you get to it and and we experience this too not just when something's physically close but even close in time, you know, if you have a vacation planned, you know and it's six months away you're like yeah, cool awesome but by the day before your pumped you're like, oh, I can't believe it I'm going on vacation you know tomorrow um now think about avoidance avoidance works the same way so if I don't know what's what's avoidance for a rat like a cat, right? So you got a big cat right here if I put the right next to the cat the cat the writers like ah, you know I've got to get away it's pulling really strongly far away it's pulling away but not you know, it's like now here's the interesting thing, the strength that you pulled toward something when you're far away, the strength you pulled towards something is actually stronger than the strength you pull away from something negative but up close it shifts up close, you pull away from something dangerous more strongly than you pull towards something positive, okay? And so why does this matter? It matters because it means that the closer you get to something, the more that the concerns you have about avoidance matter to you and from far away then from far away the concerns of your your issues with with what's desirable matter. So now we get back to this idea of cleaning the house or cleaning the house has both these approaching avoidance components to it I'm worried it might be boring I'm worried I'm worried that it's going to be work as and I'm not, you know, okay, so from so from far away while I'm it work during the day and I want to think about my house, I think, you know, I should really clean the house because because I'll feel good it's sort of fun, you know? You're sitting here now thinking, yeah, cleaning it's it's fun, it's, enjoyable right up close to it, you're thinking, oh, really? I got clean, you know? So you're in that mode right up close to it in which you're thinking to yourself, I don't know is this, you know, is this really you know, something I want to do? And this happens? This happened. This sort of thing happens to us all the time, right? So part of what you need to to do in order to help yourself overcome that is to recognize that as you get closer to something, you're going to be prone to sort of chickening out on it, right? So one of the implications of this kind of what's called a gold grady it's a great ian, because it's, the closer you get to it, the more that you get change in how strongly you're dealing with these emotions, the closest the closer you get to something them or that these concerns begin to win out. Right? You begin to worry it's going to be boring or I'm gonna make a fool of myself or this is going to be scary think about like karaoke e or something like that you know, some of your friends is we're gonna have a karaoke party you're like oh, cool yeah that'll be sort of fun, you know we'll sing some weird, you know song it will be great and then then the moment comes and and you know and they're like, well care you're gonna take the mike to do it? I don't know I'm gonna make a fool of myself that's gonna be really bad and then you chicken out from it you know I have a friend who, um who went to was going to go there was a group of women that they were going to get together and go zip lining right? And I have a friend who got invited to this party and she was like, hi, I don't know I'm not sure I want to do this, but you know, I had probably ok probably spectacular I'll go and she was cool with it all the way to the moment until she got to the top of tower she went through the safety briefing the whole bitch got all the way to the top of the tower and she looked down she looked at the zip line and she climbed back down the tower and she's like there's no way I'm not doing it right in the moment. Those avoidance concerns that that that's, a concern for life and limb won out over the potential thrill of whatever happens when you when you end up on the zip line. So, um, so a lot of things that that that that are in our world have this kind of duel component to it. So cleaning is part of that dental floss is a no no to do it can't can't forget our dental floss, you know, another problem with flosses flosses, both approaching avoids, you know your teeth will feel good after you've lost, but in the moment you're thinking, I really want to stick my hands in my mouth it's you know it, it hurts my gums a little bit to do this, so I'm worried about that piece of it. Um, documentary movies have this quality to him. We talked a little bit about watching documents you the other day, you know, because the problem is from a distance, you think, yeah, I'd love to learn about this topic. But up close, you're thinking, but, you know, it feels a little too much like school. He was a little bit too much like work, tow, walk watch a documentary, even though while you're watching it, documentaries are almost exactly like what you described with cleaning once you get started, you think actually this is really good, and what I recommend to to get into this is partly to try to remind yourself of all of the positive elements of cleaning or watching the documentaries toe pump yourself up, and then the other thing is, um, I always say, look, um, just do it for ten minutes, you know, so so when you when you don't, when you decide I don't want to clean, save yourself, alright, look, what's an easy task to do dusting or, you know, don't don't pull the vacuum out first, because once you commit to getting the vacuum out, you know that's that's like that's, the whole cleaning thing. So what's something simply you could do to get started dusting or doing a wind doing one of the mirrors, you know, some some a little something you can spray spraying is always fun any highs to clean an office building. Actually, when I was one of my first jobs was cleaning an office building, and so I was spraying stuff was always fun. Um, so, you know, do one of those and say, look, I'm just gonna clean for ten minutes, and then if I get bored or it's really awful, then I'll go do something else and what's nice is once you get yourself into it, well, then you're into it and then you're realizing actually, this is kind of cool. I'm feeling good, the house is getting cleaner and and then you go through the whole routine, you know, same thing with documentaries I recommend if you're gonna watch a documentary, have a backup, right? So have, you know, have one of those, you know, goofy austin powers movies, they're, you know, twenty one jump street or whatever it is as a backup and then say, look, I'm gonna watch that. I'm gonna watch that documentary for ten minutes, and if I'm bored, I'm going to shut it off and ninety five percent of the time it's actually really cool and the hour and a half watching movie flies by and you really feel good about having watched it, but in the event that you actually picked a dud. Then, you know, you can switch out, and by the way, I actually recommend doing the opposite when you get one of those goofy comedies that you're really excited about their often not so good. Once you get into him, I would have a backup for those too, right? So that when you're ten minutes into this and you're thinking yourself, man, this isn't funny at all. Um, at least you have something else that you can get back to. So so actually, this this this notion of approaching avoid you can overcome it just but but the way to do it, it's, just get yourself into it. Just be willing to get started, get into all right. So this is a notice, right? One of the things that's nice about this is it's a demonstration of how our feelings affect our behavior. You know, human beings are not rational creatures were not coldly rational. We use our feelings to tell us what it is that we want to do and what it is that we don't want to do, and we have to accept that the idea is not well, if I'm going to be a more effective person in the world, I need to get beyond my feelings. Right, that's what people sometimes say that if I could just overcome my feelings or I let my feelings get carried away, you know, carried away, you don't want to get beyond your feelings. You want to understand where those feelings come from, and then you use that to help you to act in the ways that you want to act and to understand why it is sometimes I just don't want to do something when you say, I don't want to do this, what you mean is I don't feel like doing this literally my emotions, my feelings don't aren't in the right place, so the more you understand about how that works, the more than you can harness that and use it to act in mohr, effective ways. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about feelings. If I had my sacks out, we could play feeling on and before I talk about feelings, I just wanted to notice anything come up that I that I need to be dealing with. Yes, thiss avoidance also has connections to procrastination. So it's the explained why we so it's certainly can write. So so would you think about procrastination? Often what happens is you have this thing you you believe will be a good thing for you to have accomplished. But you don't want to get started, why don't you want to get started? Well, there are lots of reasons why you don't want to get started and often they are avoidance reasons I'm worried it's going to be boring? I'm concerned I might fail, you know, I'm not sometimes it's just, you know, so so those air two big reasons actually why people procrastinate that's the avoidance component and then there's another piece to it sometimes, which is sometimes we procrastinate because we actually realize when we're about to get started, we're not sure how to get started, we're not actually sure what to do, so so you have to you have to understand what is the basis of my procrastination if it's that if it's that I'm worried about the avoidance component, then I really recommend a similar strategy of let me just let me just do it for ten minutes I'm just going to try minutes. I'm gonna just clear ten minutes and if I'm really bored or really frustrated, I'll come back to it later because often once you get into it, you get a lot more done, right? So it's just getting started that matters sometimes, though you realize with procrastination that abstract lee you have this thing you want to do, but you realize that specifically you're actually not sure how to proceed and that's, where we want to go back to some of the things that we talked about in the first session and actually create a plan, you know, what are the specific steps that I need to carry out in order to make sure that I achieve this goal? And now I know, ok, now I understand this is actually step one, so, um, I'm avoiding getting started because I realized I don't even I'm not even sure really what it is I'm supposed to be doing. So you have to figure out a little bit about where that procrastination is coming from, and then once you understand it, you can begin to get into it. And if you find that you're having trouble doing it yourself, then engage somebody else, right? Let's make use of some of the people are our environment. You can often convince yourself not to do something but it's hard to convince yourself in the presence of another person who's standing there, and you know that they're being disapproving when you don't get started, right? And actually, you know, we talked somebody asked, I think, was online asked a question about why go to a coffee shop to work? Well, you know, it's, even if you have a word, if you have some work to do, like if you're editing pictures or something, right, and you don't want to do it, so you keep putting it off and putting it off. You know, goto, you bring your computer to a coffee shop, and now you know. And now, even though it probably isn't true, you khun believe that everybody else sitting in the coffee shop would be shooting you disapproving glances. If you're if you're messing around on the internet, rather than getting some work done, right, to put yourself in that public environment in which there's a least, a belief that somebody is looking over your shoulder.