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.

 

Blog Posts More Blog Posts »

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

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News More News »

Sep 24 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit

When Patients Ignore Doctors’ Emotions

(The Atlantic) The doctor-patient relationship is a crucial, oft-discussed part of health care. One person seeking help, the other with the knowledge to offer it, a beautiful symbiosis. Or so it should be. In reality, this relationship (like all relationships, really) is complicated and messy. Perhaps more so because it takes place in little half-hour bursts, sometimes months apart.

In the News
Sep 20 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit

How to give customers a nudge

(The Globe and Mail) A lawyer, an economist, a marketer, and a behavioural scientist walk into a bar.

In the News
Sep 16 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit

Why Do We Admire Mobsters?

(The New Yorker) In 1947, when Elaine Slott was sixteen, she travelled with her mother and sister to visit her aunt and uncle in Florida. The day after they arrived, however, Elaine and her aunt boarded another plane by themselves. Elaine soon found herself speeding to Cuba, where the family had business interests. Elaine remembers that night well. After they landed, she and her aunt left Havana and drove for several hours into areas that seemed increasingly remote. It was very late and very dark when they finally arrived at a stately house. Along with a few guests, a number of family members, including Elaine’s uncle, had gathered there for a dinner party. Their host, who had been cooking pasta, emerged from the kitchen wearing a white apron. He introduced himself to Elaine as Charlie.

In the News

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Resources More Resources »

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Research Agendas More Research Agendas »

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan
USING AUTHENTICITY TO INCREASE PURPOSE AND BELONGING AMONG UNDER-REPRESENTED MINORITY STUDENTS

Principal Investigator: Jenessa Shapiro,  Associate Professor of Psychology and Management, University of California at Los Angeles

Adjustment to college is difficult. As a result, many interventions, including student orientation efforts, aim to make this transition smoother to protect students’ grades, satisfaction with college, and retention. This is particularly important for under-represented racial/ethnic minority students. Under-representation leads students to worry about being seen through the lens of negative stereotypes about their group and to question their sense of fit and belonging in academic settings, which in turn undermines academic interest and performance, a phenomenon called stereotype threat. We propose that stereotype threat will also lead to a reduced sense of purpose: If you feel as though you do not belong in a particular context, it is difficult to derive a sense of purpose or meaningfulness from this context. We further propose that an authenticity intervention—an intervention that individuates students and celebrates their unique cultural backgrounds—will undermine multiple forms of stereotype threats, increase students’ feelings of purpose, and in turn increase well-being, satisfaction with the university, grades, and feelings of academic fit/belonging.

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
IT’S TEDIOUS BUT IT MATTERS: CAN PURPOSE PROMOTE THE GRIT REQUIRED TO BUILD MATH AND SCIENCE SKILLS?

Principal Investigator: David S. Yeager, Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

One roadblock to math and science achievement is the tedium of mastering foundational skills.  A common approach to removing this barrier is to change the educational environment so that it makes connections to intrinsic interests (e.g., “you can use Algebra to understand baseball statistics”).  Yet such approaches are limited because foundational schoolwork is often unavoidably tedious and uninteresting. The present research proposes that a purpose—a self-relevant goal that is seen as having positive consequences beyond the self—can create in learners a mindset in which tedious skill-building tasks are re-construed as relevant for accomplishing higher-order goals.  When viewing such tasks through the lens of a prosocial purpose, learners may exhibit greater grit—or persistence on these tasks even in the face of appealing alternatives—and may ultimately acquire more skills and perform at higher levels over time.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
EMULATING SELF-CONTROL

Principal Investigator: Yaacov Trope, Professor of Psychology, New York University

The proposed research seeks to investigate how observing and emulating others affects  an indispensable resource for the pursuit of purpose--self-control. Self-control is, perhaps more than any other behavioral phenomenon, what enables people to adhere to their chosen purposes when faced with distracting temptations. But self-control does not occur in a social vacuum. People can learn self-control from their own experience, but they can also learn from observing others. More and more, our learning environments have shifted to include distant and remote others (e.g., people of different cultural backgrounds than us, located in other parts of the world, people who came before us, etc.). The proposed research therefore aims to explore how a model’s proximity vs. distance impacts what is learned from the model and how that in turn influences the self-control behaviors of the observer.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

See more related research agendas in our research agendas section.


 
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