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PSYCHOLOGYTODAY

The Backup Plan Paradox

The Backup Plan Paradox

psychologytoday.com

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The Key Points

Backup plans can undermine goal pursuit by devaluing the rewards associated with achieving a goal, thus reducing motivation.

Backup plans draw tangible and psychological resources away from your primary goal in both the planning and execution stages.

Students can focus on superordinat...

MILEY CYRUS

Accept reality and have a backup plan, but always follow your dreams no matter what.

HENRY CAVILL

If you have a backup plan, then you’ve already admitted defeat.

The Problem With A Backup Plan

  • A backup plan is self-sabotage, imbuing doubt in the value of our goal and/or our ability to complete it.
  • Backup plans can devalue the rewards that come from achieving a goal and, thus, demotivate you to complete...

Sunk Cost Fallacy

One may become biased toward the backup plan due to the sunk cost fallacy. Although this phenomenon normally refers to our tendency to stick to plans longer than we should because we’ve invested heavily in them (i.e., “throwing good money after bad”), the more resources we commit...

Two Key Strategies: Superordinate Goals

Backup plans are risky business. They decrease desire and commitment to the initial goal, create an additional cognitive burden, and ultimately hinder performance. 

Nobody wants to be a nurse, teacher, or engineer in a vacuum. Students learn in order to help other people, expand knowledge,...

Two Key Strategies: Pursue Concurrent Goals

Superordinate goals can also afford the opportunity to pursue concurrent goals.

For example, if you want to lose weight, you can consume fewer calories and exercise more; it’s not an either-or situation and neither strategy must be relegated to “backup plan.” But students can only...

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