Getting Past 80%?

Postby TristanSynth » Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:40 pm

I don't understand. It doesn't make sense.

How can I complete a Japanese language learning course up to near 80%, and then just completely lose all momentum?

How can I work for weeks getting my pushup max to 100 pushups in 10 minutes, and then the minute I actually do it, I never do them again?

How can I work for days and months learning how to touch my toes, and yet when I finally reach the floor with my fingertips, I lose all interest in continuing practicing?

How can I learn the 1st Movement of Beethoven's Sonata No. 14, to near technical mastery, with only a handful of bars left to commit to memory, and out of nowhere my interest in the piece takes a hard nosedive?

I don't get it. It's like everytime I get to 80% suddenly everything just stops. And these aren't isolated incidents, they're key examples. This has happened a lot, with all sorts of projects, in many different contexts. I don't understand how I can be diligent and consistent, for seemingly any length of time, as long as I don't actually get close to finishing. Sometimes it even feels like the moment I realize I'm capable of doing something, I lose interest.

I don't do these things just to have done them. I do them so that I can further practice them and go deeper with them. I've tasted success so many times, only to allow the long-term rewards to slip through my fingers because I stopped short; for no other reason than I got bored or lost interest. To add insult to injury, it's not like I don't have the time. It's bothering me so much more now because I have all of the time in the world.

What does this mean? Why does this happen? And how can I make it stop? Thank you for any information you have!
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:20 pm

There is no single reason to fall short of a goal or failing to maintain performance, e.g. failing to maintain your weight once successful with diet/exercise.

You may want to look into research on moderating effects of "goal commitment".

Here are two things to consider:

-1- As a person hits 80% it is not uncommon to lose focus, to reduce goal commitment as to free up time/resources to pursue new goals. An example is wanting to lose 10 kg. The trigger being "I look fat", the initial goal commitment is high. As the person reaches the 8 kg mark they don't have the same level of motivation. They look much better and it is easy to begin thinking "good enough".

-2- Another reason for an 80% is a form of self-handicapping. The last 20% means you might need to actually expose yourself to the possibility of negative feedback. For example, a person writes only 80% of a blog post, never publishing the post. If they were to reach 100% and actually publish, it might mean needing to experience the pain of negative comments, the pain of realizing the blog was not that good.

You study Japanese 80% and this gives the person a reason to avoid or otherwise justify low performance when they speak. If they get negative feedback the person says, "Well, I never finished, so you can't expect my Japanese to be very good."

It is a sort of protection of the ego which is very normal.
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Postby TristanSynth » Sun Feb 14, 2021 4:23 am


Thank you so much or this response! "Ego protection" is a term that's never even crossed my mind. That does make sense though. With some of these things I notice that my motivation declines at the same time that they get noticeably more difficult. It seems that in context of physical exercising though, or with music, it's backwards; I lose interest when the challenge has diminished. I remember when I was doing a 21-Day challenge to learn Chopin's Etude Op. 10. No. 5. "Black Keys Etude". I had been practicing consistently up until I got to the part that I thought was the most difficult in the entire piece. After working on it, and it actually not being any more difficult than any other part, it was the first time I stopped practicing altogether; For I think 2 or 3 days. It was weird, but familiar.
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