Graeme Newell

Delmore Effect

Most of us overestimate our willpower, and it often leads to disastrous results. Brain science reveals that all of us have a frustratingly FINITE amount of willpower and discipline. This means we must carefully apportion where we’ll invest our precious reservoir of determination.

Researchers gathered small groups around tables, then gave them a mentally-taxing task to accomplish. Then, they gave similar groups a much easier task to perform. In the center of the table, they placed a delicious plate of brownies with a sign that read, “Please do not eat the brownies.” The groups that performed the harder task had less self-control and gave in to the brownie temptation more often. Performing the harder task simply drained them of the willpower to resist the brownies.

Most of us are bargainers. When we accomplish a hard thing, even something small, we give ourselves permission to slack off somewhere else. For example, “I worked out today, so I deserve that extra slice of pizza.” “I don’t shoplift, so it’s okay if I cheat on my taxes a little.”

The Delmore effect has us checking off an abundance of minor accomplishments on our to-do list, but continually failing to seriously tackle life-defining goals that would transform our happiness. Putting that checkmark next to all the small stuff pacifies our ego and keeps us firmly grounded in mediocrity.

If you want to finally achieve the big goals in your life, then you must stop believing you have an unlimited supply of motivation. That means carefully compiling a focused list of the things you’re going to STOP accomplishing.

-Shut down your goal for the highest video game score.

-Give up on growing the best lawn.

-Stop saving for the BMW.

-Stop trying to impress that competitive neighbor.

Achieving those little goals is your Kryptonite. Take your gigantic reservoir of striving for success and reinvest it on a big goal that’s life-defining. Stop being “pretty good” at achieving most goals. Instead, be TERRIBLE at mediocre goals, but be INCREDIBLE at those precious few life-altering goals.