Entries in goals (7)


Do Romantic Partners Help or Hurt Goal Pursuit?

It’s the end of a long day, you’ve had a goal to exercise a few times a week, and you’re trying to decide if you’re going to go for a run tonight. You’re in a romantic relationship and you think about how your romantic partner made you a healthy dinner last night. Do you a) decide not to go for the run or b) go for the run? It may seem that ‘a’ is the obvious choice, but the research is actually mixed.

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The Problem with (How we Treat) Highly Disciplined People

Self-control: it’s a skill that most of us wish we had a lot more of. Yet, every once and a while, you meet a person who has a seemingly mystical ability to make themselves do things they ought to do, and resist the urge to do things they ought not to do. It’s that person who walks their dog, eats their oatmeal, picks up coffee for everyone in the office, and still shows up to work by 9am. The person who gets their day’s work done by lunch and then works out during their lunch hour. The person who not only makes homemade cards for their friends and family’s birthdays, but actually gets them mailed on time.

It’s easy to envy such individuals. People who have high self-control are more likely to achieve their goals in a wide variety of domains. Research shows that people with high levels of self-control tend to get better grades in school, they are less likely to engage in problem behaviors such as binge eating and alcohol abuse, and they have better psychological adjustment compared to people with lower levels of self-control.1 High self-control also has important benefits for romantic relationships. For example, married couples with greater combined levels of self-control are more responsive, trusting, and forgiving of one another, they have smoother day-to-day interactions, they have less day-to-day conflict, and they are more satisfied with their relationships on the whole.2

Looking at the literature, it’s tempting to conclude that one simply can’t go wrong by having high levels of self-control, or by having close others with high levels of self-control. However, in a paper that just came out this year, Koval, vanDellen, Fitzsimons, and Ranby3 explored a potential downside to self-control: the high expectations that others might have of high self-control individuals. Below are the three ways we tend to treat high self-control individuals, according to Koval et al.’s research, that might be damaging for our relationships with such individuals.

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How Breaking Up Helps and Hurts You Achieve Personal Goals

Imagine that you have a personal goal, such as exercising regularly. Now, imagine you also have a romantic partner. That partner can either help (e.g. by encouraging you to join them in exercising) or hinder (e.g., by encouraging you to stay home and binge watch your favorite TV show) your pursuit of your goal to exercise regularly. If your partner helps you, researchers would say that your partner is instrumental to helping you pursue the goal. If instead of helping you, your partner hindered, or got in the way of completing the goal or didn’t help you to complete it, then researchers would say that your partner is non-instrumental to helping you complete the goal.

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7 Ways to Use Science to Help Your Partner Meet His or Her Goals

Most advice on pursuing goals focuses on what you can do to achieve your own aims. But how can you help those you love to achieve their goals? Relationship partners play an important role in helping or hindering our progress toward our goals.1

Here are seven science-backed tips for helping your partner:

1. Encourage your partner

Research shows that encouragement from romantic partners to pursue goals in areas such as career, school, friendship, and fitness makes people more likely to actually achieve those goals.2

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When What’s Good for Me, Isn’t Good for Us

Often, we find ourselves doggedly pursuing a personal goal like career advancement or a fitness goal. Could these single-minded pursuits make us less interested in working to improve and maintain our relationships? 

Normally when we are deciding if we should pursue a goal, we process information about that goal in a deliberative mindset. For example, if you’re deciding whether or not you should take a new job, you will carefully consider the pros and cons of that decision. However, once you’ve set yourself on a goal, you enter an implemental mindset, where rather than thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea to pursue the goal, you think about how you can achieve the goal.1 So, once you’ve committed to the decision to take the job, you’re no longer weighing the pros and cons, but instead figuring out how to break the news to your current boss and looking for apartments closer to the new office. You’re also no longer considering all of the evidence; rather, you’re just considering the evidence that supports your goal. In a nutshell, you’re being one-sided about the issue.

So what does all that have to do with your relationships? According to new research by Laura VanderDrift and Chris Agnew, quite a bit.2 Once you’re in the implemental mindset with respect to your goal, that mindset bleeds into your relationship.

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Dear Miley, You’re Doing it Wrong

Dear Miley, you’re doing it wrong. No, I’m obviously not referring to the music world, as you seem to have that figured out. I’m not even referring to the physical act of writhing around on a metal wrecking ball, although that does bring up some hygienic concerns. Rather, as a relationship scientist, I’m referring to your love life. The lyrics of your song, Wrecking Ball, have been rolling around my head since you released it last year. And now, after almost a full year of marriage, I think I know where you went wrong. The trouble lies in your demolition-style approach. 

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Divide and Conquer: Having a Different Outlook from Your Partner Can Be a Good Thing

About a year ago, I made a very silly, and costly, mistake.

I forgot my backpack in a cab.

My partner James and I were on our way home from the airport. It was late, we were both tired, and I didn’t even realize what I had done until I went to check my email and didn’t have my laptop.

“Hmmm”, I said, to no one in particular. “My backpack isn’t here. I think I might have left it in the cab.”

James, who is characteristically calm and collected, proceeded to completely lose his cool. “Oh no! Oh NO!! This is awful. This is so bad! What can we do? Your passport was in there! Your laptop!! Can we call the cab company? This is terrible!”

“Yes,” I mused. “I probably should have checked for it before getting out of the cab. Perhaps there is a lost and found.”

After about an hour of searching, we had exhausted all avenues of trying to retrieve the bag. It slowly dawned on me that I was never getting my stuff back.

“I can’t believe this”, I groaned, slumped into the couch with my head in my hands. “It’s gone. My laptop. My passport. I think my lab keys were in there! This is awful.”

My partner, who was more or less over the crisis at this point, tried his best to be responsive to my sudden state of dejection and misery. But he couldn’t help but ask, “Uh, Sam - didn’t we know this an hour ago?”

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