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'Mindful' people are better goal-setters according to new research
Aligning your goals with deeply held values produces better results—in your career and life.
- Self-concordant individuals set goals in alignment with their beliefs and values, according to new research.
- Internal motivations score higher than external influences, such as money or fear of shame.
- Mindful individuals achieve more satisfaction, as their goals align with their authentic selves.
The practice of mindfulness involves the development of nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. While derived from Buddhist meditation practices, it became an important tool for clinical psychiatrists in the 1970s as a means for treating numerous psychological conditions, including depression, excess stress, and addiction.
Mindfulness has since gained mainstream attention. The discipline is now marketed for training productive workers and reducing anxiety at work and in daily life. Reams of research on the effects of mindfulness have been produced in the last few decades, noting a number of positive effects on a variety of psychiatric disorders.
Mindfulness is a holistic practice. The general idea is observing physical sensations and psychological experiences—desires, emotions, feelings, thoughts. Given that a feeling is both a physical sensation and a thought process, the goal is to integrate body and mind in a heightened sense of awareness. That is, to understand that body and mind are not separate, and to learn to use all sensations in your somatic toolkit.
A recent study, published in Journal of Research in Personality, suggests that "mindful" people have an important trait: they set better goals. That is, they set the right goals for themselves.
The researchers, from three Canadian universities (Carleton, University of Toronto, and McGill), wanted to know if mindfulness plays a role in achieving your goals. As the team writes,
"The purpose of the present research was to investigate whether trait mindfulness is positively associated with self-concordant goal setting, and in turn greater goal progress."
Goal Setting Is a Hamster Wheel. Learn to Set Systems Instead. | Adam Alter | Big Think
Self-concordance is a measure of how closely aligned your goals are with your personal values, as compared to goals that are set by internal or external pressures. In terms of goal-setting, self-concordance implies that your goals are made due to intrinsic motivation, whether because they're meaningful or because they represent your values.
Non-concordant goals are generally pursued for external factors, such as money, or due to societal pressure, like the fear of being shamed. Since mindfulness practitioners tend to exhibit high levels of self-awareness, the researchers theorized such individuals would be better at setting—and achieving—their goals.
Nearly 800 undergraduates were recruited for a short survey. Each volunteer wrote down three personal goals for the coming week. They were then asked to rate each of the following questions on a seven-point scale:
- Because somebody else wants you to, or because you'll get something from someone if you do
- Because you would feel ashamed if you didn't – you feel that you should try to accomplish this goal
- Because you really believe it is an important goal to have
- Because of the fun and enjoyment which the goal will provide you—the primary reason is simply your interest in the experience itself
- Because it represents who you are and reflects what you value most in life
Credit: Wirestock / Adobe Stock
The first two reasons on that list are considered non-concordant, while the latter three are more likely to be ranked higher by mindful individuals. To judge that, each student filled out a 15-item Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale. The general thrust of the questionnaire is to discover how present an individual is when performing their daily tasks.
As hypothesized, students that scored higher ranked the latter motivations higher. The researchers believe self-awareness helps individuals decide "which goals are self-appropriate." Maintaining goals that are realistic with your values, beliefs, and life circumstances make them not only easier to achieve, but will also be aligned with what matters most to you.
As the researchers phrase it,
"By habitually paying attention to their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and emotions, mindful individuals may develop a greater ability to recognize goals that are congruent with their authentic selves."
By setting attainable goals—also, perhaps unsurprisingly, an indicator of Flow States—mindful individuals score higher on self-esteem measures as well. Instead of dreaming of the impossible and being continually frustrated by disappointment, mindfulness teaches boundaries that you can work within.
Don't think of boundaries as a limitation. Mindful individuals treat them as a source of strength, as the practice of mindfulness helps you achieve goals in alignment with your authentic self. When looked at it from this perspective, the pursuit of other goals appears not only futile but emotionally and mentally damaging.
Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His new book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."
- Mindfulness shown to reduce paranoia in 7 days - Big Think ›
- How to cope with anxiety: Mindfulness tips tailored for you - Big Think ›
- An extra half-hour of sleep shown to improve mindfulness ›
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.