Having High Aspirations Can Lead to Depression

When people aspire to outcomes that they could not realistically expect to achieve, they become depressed.


In the 1942 film Now, Voyager, Bette Davis’s character ends with the line, "Don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars.” "Reach for the stars" has since become a trite platitude to encourage young people. From first graders to graduating college seniors, young people are consistently told that they can be and do anything that they set their minds to.

Except for the little problem of how to: A new study by Princeton psychology professor Margaret Frye and University of Queensland’s Katharine H. Greenaway and Tegan Cruwys reveals the paradox that more college students are excited about the future, yet simultaneously more down about it than ever. According to their research, these young people often aspire to outcomes that they could not realistically expect to achieve and, consequently, become depressed.

More college students are excited about the future, yet simultaneously more down about it than ever.

What’s key to note about this study is that these young people hoped for outcomes — such as high grades or levels of education — with little understanding how to achieve them. Hope, as a psychological concept, is a pretty muddy concept. Technically, it can be understood as a mental estimate of probabilities that outweigh the negative possibilities that would lead to fear; spiritually, it is often interpreted as faith, which ideally should persist no matter the odds.

Imperative CEO Aaron Hurst says knowing what your purpose is will you help you achieve.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.