If You Want to Succeed, Don’t Bother With a Backup Plan

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Your habit of preparing for the worst may be holding you back in your pursuit of success. New research shows that so much as considering a Plan B can hurt your chances of achieving your Plan A, The Washington Post reports.

For their study, published recently in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted an experiment on hundreds of students. The subjects were given a series of sentences to unscramble, and before starting the task, they were told they would be allowed to leave early and be given a snack if they performed well. Some of the students were also asked to figure out how they would make up the lost time or where they would find something else to eat if they didn’t succeed.

The experiment found that participants who dove straight into the test without a backup plan did better than those who had one. When the researchers conducted different tests that asked subjects to think up a Plan B in case they missed out on the reward, they saw similar results.

If you’re someone who takes comfort in planning for every scenario, you may find this news discouraging. But according to the study authors, comforting yourself by keeping an alternative plan in your back pocket could be keeping you from reaching your full potential. They refer to Plan B as “an emotional safety net” that hinders drive, while giving yourself no option but success raises the stakes and may boost your motivation.

Looking for another way to trick yourself into accomplishing your goals? Don’t talk about them. As is the case with thinking of a backup plan, the small amount of satisfaction you get from saying your ambitions out loud may be enough to demotivate you.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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