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Your goals align with your personality, study suggests

Researchers say the findings hold up even as consumers age and their lives change

Photo (c) HAKINMHAN - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Davis found a link between goal-setting and personality traits. Their work revealed that consumers are likely to set goals that align with the most dominant parts of their personalities; similarly, as people age, their goals change in accordance with their personalities. 

“This study was a unique opportunity to examine how individuals’ personalities and major life goals were related to each other across two decades of life,” said researcher Olivia E. Atherton. “We found that, in many ways, one’s personality shapes the types of life goals that are valued, and as a result of pursuing those goals, personality changes.” 

How personality plays a role in goal-setting

The study began with over 500 college freshmen who were asked to complete a survey about their biggest life goals. The researchers followed them for the next two decades, assessing both their personalities and their most prominent life goals as they aged beyond their college years. 

They found that the participants’ life goals were consistent with their most dominant personality traits, as they were more likely to aspire to things that aligned with their attitudes and beliefs. The researchers point to Einstein as a prime example of this trend, as his accomplishments can be traced back to his various interests and attributes. 

“Einstein’s tendency to be creative, curious, and intellectual likely fueled his scientific goals, as well as his more aesthetic goals, such as his passion for playing the violin,” the researchers explained. 

Because this was a long-term study, the researchers were also able to see how these findings changed while the participants themselves grew from young adults into more mature adults. Ultimately, they learned that while the participants’ goals became more streamlined over time, both goals and personality traits changed simultaneously, and the association between the two remained strong. 

“By identifying their own personal strengths and limitations, middle-aged adults may place less importance on certain major life goals because some goals may no longer be viewed as self-relevant,” the researchers said. 

The researchers emphasized the importance of consumers maintaining both short- and long-term goals so they can experience greater feelings of fulfillment. Goals provide a way for consumers to stay accountable to themselves while also staying in control of the final outcome. 

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