Zeigarnik Effect

As I am studying for my licensure exam, I am reviewing several concepts I studied while I attended undergrad. What a difference it makes to read those same concepts years later! Cognitively, they have the same meaning to me, but emotionally, I’m finding new perspectives. I think the first time I was learning about these concepts, I was perhaps just trying to pass the exam or understand the ideas behind them. Now, because I already have a foundation as to how they are defined, I can re-learn them with more applicability and personalization than before. [Side lesson – learn and re-learn because both experiences will give you a new experience, even if on the surface you think you already know the material! Every moment is a new moment]

A particular concept that got me thinking this week is the idea that we, as humans, tend to focus more on incomplete tasks more than tasks that we consider to be completed/successful. This is called the Zeigarnik Effect. I took a moment to really look within myself and find where this shows up in my life and how it affects me. I found that, for me, it’s true. I tend to ruminate on my “failures” and quickly brush off my successes. As a result, I get a feeling of “not being quite good enough” or “not doing enough.” How would I be different if I spent more time focusing on the positive aspects of my day and instead of interpreting uncompleted/negative tasks as “failures,” I instead saw them as a gift in disguise? 

Easier said than done, right? Of course. Because we have been practicing “interpreting failure” for so long, that it almost becomes automatic. When I was thinking about our natural bias to do so, I realized that out of all the times that I engage in that behavior, I’m not even aware of it on most cases! Since having that “a-ha” moment earlier this week, I’ve been practicing focusing on my “successes” at the end of the day. I also found that, although I continue to focus on the negative or incomplete, it has been happening less and it’s easier for me to shift from that.


And for more information, read this article on the Zeigarnik Effect!

I also found this video that discusses how to use the Zeigarnik Effect to our favor. Disregard the explicit and shameless advertising (Ha!).

So how about today you take a moment to end your day focusing on everything you did accomplish and complete. 





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