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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Uncertain Rewards Boost Motivation
Our sense of purpose often prompts us to pursue new opportunities and pushes us to achieve new goals. However, these new pursuits often entail a larger degree of uncertainty about where we are going, which can lead to feelings of apprehension and anxiety. It certainly seems to be the case that uncertainty is an obstacle to us achieving our purpose. However, new research from Luxi Shen, Chris Hsee, and Ayelet Fishbach suggests that uncertainty can actually motivate us to achieve.
Don’t Wear Yourself Out: The Consequences of Simulating Self-Control
Scientists have argued that one of the most unique and functional tools that we have as humans is the ability to mentally preview the future. This capacity to prospect makes it possible to set personal goals and to mentally practice the behaviors we are striving to achieve or perfect. In this way, imagination connects us to purpose, allowing us to focus on what we want most instead of simply what it is we want right now. Notwithstanding the myriad benefits of this mental preparation, recent research has suggested that in certain instances mentally rehearsing self-control can actually weaken rather than edify our resolve. Specifically, it seems that whether or not mentally simulating self-control undermines your future behavior is a function of the time, place and perspective that characterizes the imaginary event.
Too much of a good thing: Why more talent can hurt a team’s success
Many of our greatest accomplishments come from successful teamwork. Winning a baseball game, finishing a start-up’s first important project, or treating a friend to an amazing surprise birthday party would be impossible if not done in a team. Although intuition often leads us to believe that the key to a team’s success is having the most talented players, recent research suggests that idea of having too much talent may exist.
It’s Lonely At the Top: The Unexpected Drawbacks of Extraordinary Experiences
When thinking about what brings purpose and meaning into our lives, people are often quick to look to extraordinary experiences. Our bucket lists are full of our biggest hopes and wildest dreams: go skydiving, climb Mount Everest, sip Chablis on the French Riviera, become a best selling author, win a Nobel prize. While these experiences enrich and diversify our lives, often turning out to be everything we ever hoped for (and sometimes more), they may also have a hidden or unexpected cost. In particular, it may be that the more extraordinary our lives become, the less we can relate to the considerably more ‘ordinary’ experiences of others
What are you waiting for? Finding joy in the interim
In a world that values immediate gratification, waiting for what we want can seem unpleasant and at times incredibly frustrating. When it comes to the pursuit of purpose, however, patience is key as good things (e.g., graduations, promotions) rarely come easily (or instantly). Although we may wish that we could have everything we want right now, the immediate realization of all of our hopes and dreams may rob us of the excitement that accompanies ‘looking forward’ to the future. Indeed, recent research has revealed that, contrary to cultural thinking, the anticipation we experience while waiting can actually be enjoyable – depending upon what it is you are waiting for.
How to make the first step less daunting: The importance of seeing the future as now
Taking the first step is of the utmost importance to the success of any endeavor. As the Greek sage Aristotle once said, “Well begun is half done”. We know that it is important to start our goals, yet we frequently ignore this wisdom in our daily lives, procrastinating rather than pursuing our purpose. Is there any way to rectify this situation? Recent research by Yanping Tu and Professor Dilip Soman suggests that simply altering your mental perspective could help nudge you toward taking the first step.
Gratitude helps ward off temptation
Do our emotions always stand in the way to self-control? Recent research led by Professor David Desteno suggests that feeling grateful can actually help us resist temptations that can derail our pursuit of a meaningful life. Read the full post to understand why.
Inside the Science of Purpose: Yaacov Trope
Yaacov Trope in an interview for our “Inside the Science of Purpose” series: “I have learned that a sense of purpose comes from the ability to alternate between zooming in and zooming out of the immediate situation. Zooming out of the situation affords gaining a broad perspective, distinguishing between one’s primary purpose and secondary concerns, and setting clear priorities. Zooming in affords focusing on the prioritized course of action, unequivocally pursuing it, and ignoring distractors.”
Is There a Wrong Time to Be Happy?
Mental scripts and expectations about how events should unfold can be helpful tools for navigating the social world, but could they also sometimes undermine our ability to rejoice at good news? Read about new research by NPP’s Nadav Klein and Prof. Ayelet Fishbach that addressed this question.