Intentional Leader

Build great teams, products, habits, relationships

Goals and the fear of missing out

I received a few questions about the 80/20 system. This post is dedicated to the most common one. However, even though this question appears to be about the 80/20 system, you will notice that it is less connected to your choice of a system and more to the choice of your goal and perhaps even, your intention. Here’s generally how the question goes:

What if I miss a huge opportunity because I stopped something else to focus on my 80?

Without beating around the proverbial bush, the simple answer to that question is yes, that is a possibility. So there, let’s get that out of the way but first, it doesn’t matter what system you choose, this question is really about choosing to commit to your intention. Second, remember, you are in the driver’s seat so the choice is absolutely yours to make and even through that action you will learn something useful. Concretely, if the intention did not make the cut to be meaningful enough for now…. and that’s okay.

It’s okay to re-think if your goal is really worthy

However, before you jump to that conclusion, think deeply about what you know about this “missed” opportunity and why it hasn’t come along yet. Is it possible that you’re actually falling prey to very well known behaviors vis-a-vis “loss aversion” or “status quo bias”?

Loss aversion, unlike risk aversion, is a behavior where the pain of a loss hurts us more than the joy of an equivalent gain. In other words, losing a hundred bucks hurts more than gaining a hundred bucks. Specifically, when it comes to gains, we prefer a certainty of the gain over chance even if the chance could leave us better off. E.g. 100% certainty of getting $90 is preferred over 50% chance of getting $200. On the other hand, when it comes to loss, we become riskier, thus preferring a chance over certainty of a loss. E.g. 50% chance of losing $200 is preferred to 100% certainty of losing $90. Connecting the logical thread to goals, the thought of stopping something (seen as the certainty of losing an experience) thus hurts more than the perceived (yet to experience) gain from achieving our goal.

Related to loss aversion, status quo bias is a preference to not want to change the current state, thus seeing any change as somewhat of a loss.

To overcome either of these, you need to first be aware if it is happening. You can put on your scientist hat and fact check if you are overweighing the importance of what you’re going to give up vs what you can gain from the goal. Perhaps the issue is that you haven’t committed enough to one alternative. Nice thing about this self check is that you will learn more about yourself and also evaluate the importance of the intention to you giving you a good balance of sticking to one thing and also exploring something new.

Is my apprehension being caused by a bias or aversion to a loss?

You may not always have impeccable data to make this choice and it may inadvertently come down to a judgment call. In which case, take a measured leap of faith and by that I mean, why not try out your intention without completely committing to it. Give it about a third of the total committed time and keep the door open on the other things. Make a conscious note to review your choice every week so you can check in on how you feel. This gradual re-anchoring to a new status quo can help nudge you forward or, at best, confirm that the intention is not meant for you right now… and that’s okay.

Trying before committing to a goal is also an option

What did you think about this post and was most relevant for you? Let me know in the comments and also if you have any other questions. Take care!

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