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.
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.
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.
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:
- Autonomy: The sense of being in control of their behavior and goals
- Competence: Having mastery over tasks and skills
- 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.
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?
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.