When does it make sense to give up on your goals?
Plus, how the pandemic changed us.
“Either-or thinking is limited at best and detrimental at worst.” – psychologist Wendy Smith
Never give up. There is no failure except in no longer trying. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You’ve heard the cliches about grit, but when does it make sense to quit? A recent study looked at goal pursuit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, the pandemic made it harder to reach certain goals, like going to the gym more often or trying to find a new job. Many of our goals remained “frozen,” a term used to describe goals that we haven’t exactly given up on but that we’ve taken a break from pursuing. The study found that the more frozen goals people had, the more psychological distress they reported feeling. This wasn’t true for people who had given up on the goal entirely. The researchers argue that sometimes it makes sense to quit rather than stay committed to these frozen, blocked goals. It’s also true that your past self might set goals that don’t make sense to you in the future. The lesson here? Goals are worth pursuing, but perhaps they’re also worth reconsidering.
Change my mind. Do you feel like the pandemic changed you? Join the club. A new study found small but significant changes to personality in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers looked at data from the Understanding America Study, which measured personality traits for thousands of people in the U.S. In 2020, the research found a slight decrease in neuroticism, but that change vanished by 2021-2022. More recently, the data found that other personality traits had declined: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. “The continued uncertainty around the pandemic, particularly as it dragged into a second year, as well as the decline in mobility, may have led individuals to narrow their activities and worldviews,” the researchers hypothesized. They also wonder if the move to online communication and entertainment, coupled with our reliance on social media, has kept us from being exposed to new ideas, which might further explain the decline in those traits. Exposure to new ideas? Hey, I think there’s a podcast for that.
Time is on your side. Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Like you struggle to make time for all the competing demands at work and at home? When our time feels scarce, we tend to make decisions that only make the problem worse. But there’s a better way to think about time, and it can help us find more of it. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Oct 17: When we confront what looks like a fork in the road, psychologist Wendy Smith has found that our minds respond in systematic and predictable ways. And many of these responses are not conducive to good decision-making. This week, the psychology of dilemmas – and how to learn to make better choices.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A petri dish hosts a healthy colony of bacteria. Once a minute every bacterium divides into two. The colony was founded by a single cell at noon. At exactly 12:43 (43 minutes later) the petri dish was half full. At what time will the dish be full?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
There are two ducks in front of a duck, two ducks behind a duck and a duck in the middle. How many ducks are there?
The answer: There are only three ducks.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
How does the Corn Kid feel about baby lettuces?
Have an idea for Hidden Brain? A story you want to share with us? Send an email to email@example.com. And if you’d like to support our work, you can do so here. Listen to us on Spotify, Apple, Amazon Music or your favorite podcast platform.