Drifting Goals

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to bring the best of intentions to fruition? How so many people's New Years resolutions only last a few days? Our inability to achieve the things we set out to achieve is very much a result of the operation of a drifting goals structure we generally have little awareness of.

A drifting goals structure is composed of two balancing loops which interact in such a way that the activity of one loop actually undermines the intended balance the other loop seeks to achieve. Consider the following example in which I set out to pursue something I want.

We begin with a standard balancing loop intended to get me from what I have to what I want.

What I want interacts with what I have to create a gap. This gap influences, i.e. adds to, my action to get what I want. As I take action to get what I want it adds to what I have. And as what I have gets closer to what I want it subtracts from the gap making is smaller and smaller.

One of the annoying characteristics of the balancing loop is that as what I have gets closer and closer to what I want the gap gets smaller and provides less of an impetus for action to get what I want. It seems that the closer I get to what I want the more time it looks like it's going to take to get there. This is usually quite frustrating.

There are also all kinds of head games we play with ourselves which are essentially promoted by the gap in the above diagram. Consider the following extension of the above example.

At the same time the gap adds to my action to get what I want it also adds to a pressure to settle for less. This pressure to settle for less then subtracts from what I want essentially inducing me to want less, or at least be willing to settle for less.

Since my actions to get what I want generally take time to produce results, more time than my patience will tolerate any way, it is far easier and faster to get rid of the gap by settling for less and reducing what I want. As for the head games we play with ourselves that drive this pressure to settle for less, they are along the lines of, I don't deserve what I want, I can't have what I want, it takes to long, it's too hard, it's not really worth the effort, I'm not worthy, etc. We are most definitely our own worst enemies.

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