Finding Goals


“Crocker isn’t the only researcher who has investigated the benefits of taking a tend-and-befriend approach to achieving personal goals. Dave Yeager… has shown that helping students find their bigger-than-self goals improves academic motivation and performance. In one study, college students were given a twenty-minute ‘beyond-the-self’ mindset intervention that included this exercise:

Take a moment to think about what kind of person you want to be in the future. Also think about what kind of positive impact you want to have on the people around you or society in general. . . . In the space below, write a few sentences that answer this question: How will learning in school help you be the kind of person you want to be, or help you make the kind of impact you want on the people around you or society in general?

Students were then given a series of both boring and difficult math problems. The students who had completed the beyond-the-self reflection persisted longer and ended up finishing more problems correctly. The same brief mindset intervention in high school students not only boosted short-term motivation, but also led to higher end-of-the-semester GPAs. Yeager and his colleagues found that when students thought about their bigger-than-self goals, it changed the meaning of both boring work and academic struggles. The new meaning—that persevering at their studies would help them make a difference in the world—motivated them to engage with, rather than avoid, the stress of challenging themselves.”

—Kelly McGonigal from The Upside of Stress


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