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Goal Focus


Techniques Willpower > Desisting > Goal Focus

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



If you know you need to do something and somehow you seem to be avoiding it, then one way to help get things done is to focus on the goal, the beneficial outcome of the actions. The same approach can be taken if you want to stop doing something.

Whether you want to start or stop doing something, pause and think: what are you seeking to achieve? What is the outcome you seek? What benefits are there in it for you?

Focus on the positive value that you will gain. See how desirable this will be. Then look at what you have to do to get it, and how small this is in comparison. Then do what you know you should do, always keeping the end in mind.


A person knows they should give up drinking so much. Reflecting on this, they realize that their drinking is making their family unhappy. They keep this in mind when they think of having a drink, of how sad the family would be to see them drunk, and how happy they will be to see them sober. They immediately start drinking much less.

A student knows they should study more but are having too good a time. After a very poor mark for an essay, they think about what it is all for and reframe their time at college as being about getting a good job when they finish. They henceforth start doing things that will support this goal, working on committees, getting jobs, and studying hard. They end up with a good qualification and a strong resume.


Goals are the things we seek and desire in life. They often are derived from what we think is possible and what we see others getting. At a more fundamental level, we set goals in order to meet deep needs. We often set goals based on our understanding of the world as reflected by the models we use.

When people do not do what they know they should be doing, they are often focusing on the discomfort of the action more than the benefits they will gain when they have completed the action.

We perceive time in different ways and one reason some appear to have a short-term focus is that they have a limited ability to see the future. This is particularly true of teenagers where the frontal lobes in which we think about the future develop late (this is also a reason why young people take greater risks).

See also

Goals, Needs


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