Your Self-Image Determines the Goals You Set

OK, I admit, I failed this test.

 You’re a careful eater, avoiding high-calorie snacks and meals as a rule. But one day at the lunch counter, instead of ordering the usual salad, you’re tempted by a cheeseburger. Will you give in?

I did.

This apparently shows that you're influenced by whether you view yourself as more or less of an independent type, and whether you generally try to be ambitious or maintain the status quo.

This could mean a lot in setting goals, according to a new study, which has shown that how you view yourself may have an impact on setting goals.

Researchers examined two kinds of “self-construal” – that is, how people view themselves. Someone with an “independent” self-image sees himself as distinct from others, while a person with an “interdependent” view of himself aims to fit into the social structure and maintain harmonious relations with others.

Additionally, the study identifies two kinds of goals – those of “attainment” and of “maintenance.” Someone with attainment goals seeks to reach a desired state, by losing weight, for example, or adding to a savings account. A person with maintenance goals would seek to keep his weight and savings account at least at their current levels, reports.

 Through six experiments involving more than 2,000 participants in the United States and China, the researchers found that, compared to people with a predominantly interdependent self-construal, those with a predominantly independent self-construal tend to be motivated more by goals of attainment and the accompanying potential for advancement and distinction.

However, the more interdependent individuals tend to be motivated more by maintenance goals that emphasize stability and continuity.

“In one of our studies,” researchers said in an interview, “we observed people’s real-life body-weight goal pursuit behaviors (that is, losing vs. maintaining body weight) over a period of 13 months. We found that people who had fewer social ties, and hence were more independent, were more likely to set the goal of reducing as opposed to maintaining body weight. Further, after people set their weight-management goals, the more independent individuals were more motivated, as measured by the amount of the money they were willing to bet on their success, to pursue weight-loss goals as opposed to weight-maintenance goals.”

The researchers also found that appeals to a person’s sense of independence or interdependence can influence how goals are set. Not surprisingly, when study participants were asked about a series of possible actions – adding to a savings account, losing weight, and increasing their college grade-point averages – their motivation for attaining a better state was greater when the actions were posed as benefitting them as individuals, as opposed to benefitting their close social groups (relatives and friends). The opposite pattern emerged for the maintenance-goal version of the actions.

Hmm.  Maybe I didn't fail, after all.


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