Last year I had a goal of writing a book. It was going to 70,ooo words. That worked out to just under 1,000 words per day if I was going to finish within 3 months.
As it turned out it was a hopelessly ambitious goal. I lasted about a week. OK, maybe it was a bit longer but it was less than a month.
The funny thing (actually it wasn’t that funny but let’s call it that) was that after I skipped the first few days I stopped measuring my progress. It wasn’t a deliberate strategy but it allowed me to avoid the ugly truth that things weren’t working out.
As it turns out my behaviour is called the Ostrich Syndrome (PDF), which is when someone sticks their head in the sand and hopes a problem will go away.
People who are enjoying a goal and staying on track find it easy to keep track of their progress. But those who start to slip behind are much more likely to stop measuring.
Think about it. Have you ever embarked on a weight loss campaign and become disheartened when the scales tipped the wrong way? If it wasn’t weight loss it was prospecting calls or something else that would take effort to achieve.
Either way, chances are you’ve said yes. And the reality is that soon after the initial setback you’ve stopped looking at the scales, or counting the number of words written or calls made.
But the problem with avoiding bad news is that it denies us from the very feedback we need to improve. Negative feedback is the very thing we need to adjust course and stay on track.
According to Ilan Mochari there are three problems that flow from not tracking your progress. They are:
- You’ll become scared to leave your comfort zone. That’s fine if you want to stay at your current weight or income level but if you want to achieve something worthwhile you’ll need to step into the uncertainty.
- You won’t achieve your goals. Mochari quotes research that proves a direct connection between goal achievement and monitoring progress. So as frightening as it may be it’s important to start getting feedback early.
- You won’t learn. Getting feedback about how your going is the perfect tool to learn about what’s working and what’s not. Both give you what you need to know how far to trim the sail.
There are plenty of ways to overcome the ostrich effect. But I’ll leave it up to you to share how you overcome it in the comments below.