A new study shows that people who set realistic goals can hope for better well-being.
The key for later satisfaction is whether the life goals are seen as attainable, according to psychologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland.
For the study, researchers used data from 973 people between the ages of 18 and 92 living in German-speaking parts of Switzerland. More than half of the participants were surveyed again after two and four years.
The participants were asked to assess on a four-point scale the importance and the perceived attainability of life goals in 10 areas: health, community, personal growth, social relationships, fame, image, wealth, family, and responsibility and care for younger generations.
The study’s findings revealed that perceiving one’s personal goals as attainable is an indicator for later cognitive and affective well-being.
This implies that people are most satisfied if they have a feeling of control and attainability, the researchers explained.
Life goals also hold predictive power for specific domains, according to the study’s findings. For example, participants who set social-relation goals or health goals were more satisfied with their social relationships or their own health.
The researchers also found that the link between life goals and subsequent well-being appeared to be independent of the age of the participants.
However, age did play a factor in what goals people valued.
The younger the participants were, the more they rated personal growth, status, work, and social-relation goals as important. The older the participants were, the more they rated social engagement and health as important, according to the study’s findings.
“Many of our results confirmed theoretical assumptions from developmental psychology,” said lead author Janina Bühler, a Ph.D. student. “If we examine, however, whether these goals contribute to well-being, age appears less relevant.”
The study was published in the European Journal of Personality.