Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose in Goal Pursuit

In exploring the human experience of purpose, the NPP project has identified several core themes that are particularly significant, and which provide a useful framework for organizing our activities.  This page displays the content from this website tagged for one of those themes: Purpose in Goal Pursuit.

The Purpose in Goal Pursuit theme focuses our attention on the situational or contextual factors that might influence people’s motivation to set, pursue, and accomplish their significant short- and long-term goals. How do such external influences (e.g., physical environment, social forces, peers) compare to and work with internal influences (e.g., self-control, moral identity, personal beliefs) in inspiring and facilitating the achievement of purpose? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

 

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Nov 18 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

No mountain too high: How a sense of purpose fuels people’s energy

A sense of purpose in life can alleviate the greatest hardships and give people a boost to deal with adverse circumstances. After having mastered getting a college degree, finishing a marathon, or paying off debt, people often say that knowing what these struggles were for helped them through difficult times. But how exactly does a sense of purpose help people to find the energy for life’s uphill battles? Recent research suggests that with a sense of purpose in life, the hill literally looks less steep.

By Janina Steinmetz
Oct 21 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Only humble wishes: How humility fosters self-control

We all love celebrities who still do their own laundry and go grocery shopping despite their multi-million dollar assets. We also admire the stars of sports who give all the credit for their successes to their teams. Humility seems especially endearing in times like these where unshakable confidence seems to be the key to get ahead. Humility undoubtedly makes people nicer and more pleasant to be around, but maybe being humble also benefits people in entirely unexpected ways. Read here what humility has to do with eating chocolate! 

By Janina Steinmetz
Oct 05 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Be aware! You might lose your mind when trying to lose weight

I completely forgot that it was my turn to bring you the latest discoveries from the frontiers of behavioral science until someone kindly sent me a reminder. In fact, I have been experiencing these memory lapses rather frequently as of recent. And naturally, I, as any well-trained psychologists would do in similar circumstances, began to suspect that I might be suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s (I know, it is so darn unfair!). I plopped down in front of my computer and started brooding over the meaninglessness of life and the frailty of human nature while aimlessly Googling random stuff. Suddenly, I stumbled upon a new paper from Duke University which completely knocked me out of my self-imposed stupor. It turns out that my forgetfulness probably has more to do with the new hot body of yours truly rather than my brain’s failure to clean up those harmful chemicals I introduced in a previous post.

By Haotian Zhou
May 28 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Counting the days: How to start preparing for the future

Most of us never have enough time. We feel like there are so many urgent tasks to tend to in the present that we often neglect the future. We assume that our future selves will somehow have more time, energy, and patience to deal with everything we cannot deal with right now. However, most of us never stop being busy, and thus we often fail to sufficiently focus on the future. Consequently, long-term goals in areas such as finances, health, and professional success may suffer. Pursuing purpose in life requires looking beyond all of the immediate and urgent things that are going on, and to focus on what really gives us meaning. How can we stop delegating tasks to our future selves and start working for our future now?

By Janina Steinmetz, Brittany Christian
Mar 30 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

How self-control improves ethical decision making

People value moral behavior and want to resist the temptation to behave unethically. Taking the moral high ground not only helps us to achieve a sense of purpose, but also respects the purpose and well being of others. Unfortunately, opportunities to behave unethically present themselves on a daily basis, and at times, people fall prey to these temptations. Spouses are unfaithful, teenagers shoplift, and powerful individuals abuse their positions of authority. A recent review article suggests that self-control plays a critical role in promoting ethical behavior and that studying self-control conflicts can help explain why people fail to behave ethically. 

By Kaitlin Woolley, Brittany Christian
Mar 14 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being

Risky Business: How being reminded of past success encourages risk taking

Life is a series of choices. Often times we find ourselves at a crossroad trying to determine whether it is best to take the ‘safe’ option or to go out on a limb and try something that is more risky in hopes that it will yield a greater reward. Whether considering investments in stock, our next career move or a future travel destination, the decisions we make in the face of uncertainty can either enrich our lives with meaning and a sense of accomplishment or fill us with regret. Recent research considers how being reminded of past successes might influence our decisions to take big risks. 

By Brittany Christian, Janina Steinmetz
Feb 09 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

Having Trouble Focusing? A Dose of Cuteness May Be The Answer

For many of us, the sight of a cute baby animal brings an adoring smile to our faces. As anyone who has ever spent any time perusing Google images will tell you: people love pictures of cute puppies and kittens. Although gawking at the latest viral cat meme might seem like a waste of time, could it be that doing so is actually time well spent? According to recent research by a team of Japanese psychologists, the answer is a resounding yes.

By Haotian Zhou, Alex Shaw
Dec 26 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being

Lead us not into temptation: how people with good self-control avoid temptations

We’re in the midst of the holiday season, which is a time of joy and family gatherings. But interwoven with all the bliss and festivity we face numerous almost irresistible temptations. Whether it is a healthy diet or a productive work or study schedule, these goals seem even harder to pursue when we’re surrounded by delicious food and plenty of distractions. And yet, we need to stay strong when facing temptations in order to pursue our goals and eventually purpose and meaning in life. But what’s the secret of the successful resisters?

By Janina Steinmetz, Brittany Christian
Dec 20 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being

When it Comes to Being Nice, It May not Pay to Go the Extra Mile

During the holiday season we are often told that it is better to give than to receive. These simple words speak to the importance of generosity to leading a balanced life. Giving to others not only gives us a deep sense of purpose, but it also lets others know that we are a nice and generous person. To say it simply, it pays to be nice. If being nice does indeed pay, does it pay even more to be exceptionally nice to others? Recent work from Nadav Klein and Nicholas Epley suggest a surprising answer to this question…

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Nov 28 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Reaping what has yet to be sown: Planning good future behavior increases bad behavior now

We all sometimes take credit for things we haven’t done yet but are simply planning on doing. Maybe we are treating ourselves to a cookie now that we’ve decided to have a salad for dinner, or we’re buying something expensive because that bonus will be coming next month. Whereas planning future good deeds can motivate our striving for purpose and meaning in the present, recent research suggests that the picture may be different when it comes to planning moral deeds. Could it be that planning on doing something good tomorrow make you a worse person today?

By Janina Steinmetz, Brittany Christian

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