Insights

#284: It’s Over Once You Celebrate

It’s that festive, end-of-the-year time again. You know what that means, don’t you? It means you want to wrap up many unfinished projects so that you can unwrap many unopened presents. In a mellow state of mind.

And because you are sliding towards mellow, you risk forgetting that nothing is over until it’s over. What makes this so easy to forget is because we don’t distinguish between goal-directed activity and goal activity.

Goal-directed activity is what we do to reach a goal. Goal activity is what we do when we reach the goal.

Hang on a moment. Why do we do things at work? Actually, why do we do anything anywhere? We do things because we hope to get a reward of some sort for doing it. In other words, we are willing-to-do because we are hoping-to-get.

But because we are human, we complicate things. Doing things (goal-directed activity) increases our need or desire. Enjoying the results (goal activity) reduces our need and desire.

Got that? No? Neither did I. Until I thought of this example: preparing dinner.

Preparing dinner is goal-directed activity. The closer you get to the end of making dinner, the hungrier you become. (Which is why every chef tastes the food being prepared.) Eating dinner is goal activity. The more you eat, the less hungry you become.

Why should you, as a manager, distinguish between goal-directed activity and goal activity? If you celebrate the end of a project before it is totally done, you will struggle to get people to wrap up any loose ends that will finish it completely.


Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.