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Live better with attainable goals

Live better with attainable goals

Live better with attainable goals

Individuals who set realistic, attainable goals have a greater sense of wellbeing, according to psychologists at the University of Basel.

Those who set realistic goals can hope for a higher level of wellbeing. The key for long-term satisfaction is whether your life goals are seen as attainable and what they mean to you as a person, as psychologists from the University of Basel conclude in a detailed examination on how life goals are embedded in people’s lives.

The results, published in the European Journal of Personality, show how life goals affect people’s happiness and wellbeing throughout adulthood. The team of researchers worked with 973 participants, between the ages of 18 and 92 years old, living in German-speaking parts of Switzerland. Participants were asked to assess the importance and perceived attainability of life goals in ten areas – health, community, personal growth, social relationships, fame, image, wealth, family, responsibility/care for younger generations, and work – using a four-point scale. Half of the participants were surveyed again after two and four years.

One of the key findings of the study is that people who perceive their goals as being attainable overall reported higher cognitive and affective (mental and emotional) well-being in the follow-up surveys. This suggests that people are most satisfied if they have a feeling of control and attainability.

Life goals were also found to hold predictive power for specific domains. For example, participants who set social-relation goals or health goals were more satisfied with their social relationships or their health.

The goals that people value in a particular life stage depend on the development tasks that are present at this stage: the younger the participants were, the more they rated personal-growth, status, work and social-relation goals as important. The older the participants were, the more they rated social engagement and health as important.

“Many of our results confirmed theoretical assumptions from developmental psychology,” says lead author and PhD student Janina Bühler from the University of Basel’s Faculty of Psychology. Life goals were strongly determined by age: “If we examine, however, whether these goals contribute to well-being, age appears less relevant.”

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