The Danger Of The Finish Line
As I've mentioned many times before, I'm hard at work on a book about how we make and break habits. This masterpiece will hit the shelves in 2015.
One thing that took me a long time to realize, in the study of habits: the danger of finish lines.
Setting a finish line does indeed help people reach a goal, but although it's widely assumed to help habit-formation, the reward of hitting a specific goal actually can undermine habits.
A finish line marks a stopping point, and once we stop, we must start over, and starting over is harder than starting.
The more dramatic the goal, the more decisive the end-and the more effort required to start over. By providing a specific goal, a temporary motivation, and requiring a new "start" once reached, hitting a milestone may interfere with habit-formation.
Also, once we decide that we've achieved success, we tend to stop moving forward.
Even an intermediate finish line can interfere with good habits. In a letter, novelist Kurt Vonnegut advised his son Mark:
"I have seen a lot of writers stop writing or at least slow down after getting an advance. They have a feeling of completion after making a deal. That's bad news creatively...I advise you to carry on without an advance, without that false feeling of completion."
Have you ever found that hitting a finish line meant that you stopped doing something, even though you'd been doing it successfully to that point? That you thought you'd been forging a habit, but it turned out not to be?
Other posts you might be interested in...
Resolution: Cross A Finish Line
Questions For You: What Habits Most Affect Your Spiritual Life And Work Life?
Before And After: Use The Accountability Of Weight Watchers And A Personal Trainer
How To Drop Bad Habits And Gain Good Habits