If you just clicked on that link, never to return . . . you probably suffer more from Oooh Shiny than from Stay on Target.
If you ignored it because you're here to read this post and you'll get to it later . . . maybe you're more of a Stay on Target type.
Stay On Target
This is a refusal to be swayed from your plan once you've set on it. You have your task, and you go after it without varying from it.
Just remember this famous proponent of the "Stay on target!" approach, Porkins.
Everything turned out for him okay, right?
Note, however, that inflexibility or stubborn foolishness is often fatal.
- Gary Gygax, "Successful Adventures," AD&D Players Handbook, p. 107
The Stay on Target approach can cost you opportunity. You have a chance encounter that presents an action you can take or pass on . . . do you pass on it to stay on the plan, or do you swap to this new thing? What if that "new thing" is a clearly better option, or a one-chance option?
Sometimes Stay on Target is, like Oooh Shiney, a way of avoiding decision making. Ironically, a cost of Stay on Target is missing out on your real goal. For example, you may plan to find a set of stairs down and explore there . . . but really you're doing so because you want to find a way to avoid a specific monster. Then you find a different potential way down and ignore it, because Stay on Target! We're looking for stairs! This especially happens when your plan is even more vague, or is really just a hope disguised as a plan (Step 1: Find monsters. Step 3: Profit!) Instead of shifting to an actual opportunity, you stick with the sunk costs of a plan that isn't as valuable as what you came across.
What kind of behavior do you see with Stay on Target?
Usually some or all of the following:
- insisting on a plan
- refusal to adjust or change the plan, even in the face of evidence of something better
- unwillingness to entertain changes
- arguing for continuation based on the costs expended on the plan already (sunk cost fallacy)
- risk aversion, especially in the form of avoiding new risks while insisting on surmounting old risks
How do you know you do this?
This one is generally very clear - you refuse to take opportunities or shift to something else until your original plan is done, or until it becomes completely untenable.
So which is better?
Like the choice of being frozen to death or burned to death, neither is really what you want. Neither is better than the other - they're both mistakes. One is an inability to stick with a plan. The other is an inability to be flexible in the face of changing circumstances. Both are built on logical fallacies. There is a third option - always keeping the goal the goal. More on that tomorrow.