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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

Study Finds People With Ambitious Goals Are Happier And More Satisfied

Study Finds People With Ambitious Goals Are Happier And More Satisfied

We often believe we would be happier if we are grateful enough. This might mean not pushing yourself too hard and accept what you have already/what you do not have now. That’s why sometimes ambitious people are thought to be less happy, as they are busy working on their goals. However, a study has proven the opposite. Here’s why.

Ambitious Goals VS Conservative Goals

A study conducted at the University of California-Riverside compared people who set ambitious goals to those who set more conservative goals. The results: The people who set ambitious goals were happier in the “long run”.

Turns out when you set an ambitious goal versus a conservative goal you end up feeling happier. After all, ambition is defined as: A strong desire to do or to achieve something; typically requiring determination and hard work.

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Often when we set a goal we expect a specific result. If we set a conservative goal, we get conservative results. The opposite is true when you set an ambitious goal, you end up getting astonishing results.

In this study conducted at the University of California-Riverside people often set goals with two reasons in mind: expectancy and value.  The expectancy portion of the goal is how likely the person will be successful at achieving their goal. The value portion relates to how good it will feel when reach your goal.

When you set a goal, be mindful of also setting aside limiting beliefs. Goals are set to achieve something bigger than what you are currently doing. So why set a conservative goal which in turn will only get you conservative results? Ambitious goals provide great results when achieved.

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The tricky thing about goals is knowing whether or not the goal is for personal growth or if it is a “worldly goal”. Besides ambitious goals, setting goals full of intrinsic value are great for your overall happiness.

Goals For Personal Growth Are The Key

Let’s first define an intrinsic goal: A goal that relates to personal growth, something that is “good for the soul”. An extrinsic goal is a goal that relates to “worldly goals” or anything that has to do with money or social status.

A study conducted in 2003 at the University of Rochester requested 147 college graduates share their life aspirations and the end result. The students who set intrinsic goals, set goals such as working on personal relationships and expanding personal growth.  Whereas the students who set extrinsic goals, set goals such as fame, earning a certain dollar figure and appearance.

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The result: The students who set intrinsic goals versus extrinsic goals experienced a higher level of happiness. Those who set extrinsic goals reported no improvement in their well-being even after achieving their goal.

The Relationship Between Goals And Happiness

The findings can actually be explained by a psychological theory, the “Self-Determination Theory”, which states the three things in order for people to be happy:

  1. Autonomy: The sense of being in control of their behavior and goals
  2. Competence: Having mastery over tasks and skills
  3. Relatedness: Having a sense of belonging and connectedness to others.

Turns out, extrinsic goals (money and fame) do not meet these three criteria. Whereas intrinsic goals (goals good for the soul) nourish these psychological needs to be happy.

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When you set a goal ask yourself: How will this goal provide me with a sense of being in control of my behavior? How will this goal allow me to attain a specific mastery of a skill? Will this goal afford me the opportunity to connect with others?

Conclusion

When you choose to set a goal, be mindful if you’re setting a conservative or an ambitious goal. If you want big results, set an ambitious goal. If you want to feel happier when you achieve your goal, set a goal that is an intrinsic goal that satisfies our autonomy, competence and relatedness. Goals can be a scary thing to set and then to declare, but when you chose a goal that is ambitious and most likely provide happiness, achieving your goal will be worthwhile.

More by this author

Tara Massan

Founder of Be Moved, Life Coach and Writer.

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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

How To Set The Right Goal: 7 Goal Setting Mistakes To Avoid

How To Set The Right Goal: 7 Goal Setting Mistakes To Avoid

Life is all about moving forward with our goals and achieving more in our lives. Wanting to better ourselves brings aspirations, dreams and takes us down paths to accomplishment.

Discovering what we want to do in life can be an exciting prospect and we naturally become eager to start setting our goals and planning on how we can achieve them. But there are some fundamental mistakes that many people make when setting goals and, if we’re not aware of these, they can bring a lot of challenges, frustrations and disappointments.

Here are 7 goal setting mistakes to be aware of:

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1. Too Narrow In Our Thinking

For some of us, when setting goals, we focus a lot on what we want rather than why we want it. Thinking in this way limits our imagination and keeps us from realising what we really want. For example, if you set your sights on a particular job for purely the purpose of power, influence over others or the ability to effect changes then you are losing sight of the position itself and what it can bring to you personally. Focusing on the growth aspect of your goals will allow more flexibility in the adjustment of them. In other words, you are putting less emphasis on a specific, narrowed aspect of the job and cultivating the positive reasons why the job will be beneficial to you and your growth.

2. Pursuing Extrinsic Instead Of Intrinsic Goals

This is linked to our narrowed thoughts. One of the biggest goal setting mistakes we make is going after goals that are ultimately governed by external influences rather than from within. Sometimes a goal can be about validation rather than our true happiness and this usually points to our need to feed deep-rooted issues rather than for the good of ourselves.

Any goal that is focused on social status, the aim of getting rich or recognition will take away your true purpose and enjoyment of the end goal. Make sure your goal is intrinsically motivated and solely for the satisfaction of your own personal development.

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3. Believing Our Goal Will Bring Us Happiness

I know what you’re thinking – of course my goal will make me happy! The problem with goals, as discussed before, can be our reasons behind them. Sometimes we go after goals believing that we’ll achieve happiness once we accomplish them and while this can be true, it really depends on whether or not you’re pinning all your happiness on your goal.

It’s a big myth that thinking our goal will be what brings us ultimate happiness. While this can be true, it is usually short lived if we’re not fundamentally happy in the first place. We need to achieve happiness within and not pin it all on our goals. In other words, make sure your goal will make you happier not to achieve happiness in itself.

4. Setting Too Many Goals

Understanding that we have limitations is important and the danger with too many goals is that it can lead to quantity rather than quality. Focusing on one goal or a selection of quality goals is much more manageable and meaningful than going after too many. It’s important to understand that quality goals are usually ones that develop ourselves and move us forward in a positive way while quantity goals are more focused on quick, meaningless achievements that don’t necessarily fulfil our needs and have little impact.

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5. Setting Goals Without Strategies And The Correct Mindset

Setting goals can help us get what we want but to achieve the goals we need to have a good strategy in place as well as a good mindset. A positive and successful mindset is the crux of any good goal-setting strategy. After all, our actions rely heavily on our perspective and ways of looking at the world.

A good strategy will account for any pitfalls or potential challenges that come your way. These can easily trip you up and cause you to give up altogether so it’s important to plan thoroughly and create small and achievable steps.

6. Setting Goals Too Low

When we have limited beliefs surrounding our goals, we can have a tendency to set our goals too low. This is usually because we underestimate our abilities or resources either because of past experience or limited information. If you think of a goal and don’t truly believe you can achieve it, then the tendency is to lower your standards. This is tempting but won’t get you what you truly want. Make sure that you realise all your resources and work on your self-esteem to recognise your true potential.

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7. Unrealistic Expectations

One of the main goal setting mistakes we make is creating unrealistic expectations. This doesn’t means biting off more than we can chew in terms of our abilities but the way in which we set our goals. For example, not giving yourself enough time to achieve your goal can lead to a sense of failure and can make you give up altogether. Be kind to yourself, eliminate unneeded pressure and give yourself realistic time limits – account for any challenges along the way. Just because a goal takes a year doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Try not to fall into the trap of impatience when it comes to your goals as it only leads to goals that ultimately can’t be achieved.

Featured photo credit: startupstockphotos.com via pexels.com

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