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Get It Done by Ayelet Fishbach


Talking about cognitive science can be daunting, particularly for lay people who struggle with some of the most basic and fundamental of scientific concepts. Taking this into account, the clarity with which Ayelet Fishbach explores the cognitive psychology of goal setting and improvement through focused attention and practice is really quite stunning. Drawing on inspiration that is ubiquitous motivational talks (we all struggle with goal setting and sitting through endless presentations on the important of things like SMART goals) and pulling apart the widely held beliefs of the cognitive functions associated, Fishbach really gets to the crux of what it means to be cognitive in the process of goal making and approaching challenges.


Get it Done tackles the key areas of our lives, relationships, home and work in a series of anecdotal and science driven evidence. It takes the known concepts of things like intrinsic motivation and aspirational ambition and brings it back to first principles, explaining the origins of the terms, and the science that supports it. Then, and perhaps most importantly, Fishback explains the scaffolding that can be put into place by individuals to ensure that the goals are met with efficiency and effective practise.

Goals come and go, particularly when it comes to that dreaded New Year’s Resolution. However, Fishbach suggests that it is not the setting of goals that is the problem. Rather, it is the lack of specificity within these goals that causes issues for the majority of people. She suggests that it is much more effective to outline the exact amount of weight to be lost, in an exact time frame - rather than a general, lose weight goal. It is the lack of clarity in the goal that causes people to lose their focus and struggle to maintain the trajectory - particularly when things begin to work against them, or things get tough.


Dr Ayelet Fishbach is an award-winning psychologist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, as well as a specialist in motivational cognitive theory. Her pioneering research on motivation won her the Society of Experimental Social Psychology's Best Dissertation Award and Career Trajectory Award, as well as the distinguished Fulbright Educational Foundation Award.


Probably the key to this book is the chapter on Patience, which really defies the expectations of our current world and the impatience that permeates almost all facets of modern life. In dealing with this concept of taking time to allow things to grow and develop, Fishbach looks at the psychological impacts of delayed gratification and the long term benefits that can come from this.


As one who may struggle with finding the motivation or the inspiration to achieve set goals, this book acts as more of a guide to success. Through simple explanation and clear insight into the workings of the mind and the cognitive processes, there is something to aid even the most ardent procrastinator. Overall, this was quite a revelation in goal setting and how to achieve aspirations, backed by a thorough scientific foundation.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Macmillan Publishers