You’ve got a long list of resolutions for the new year, but will you achieve them? It may depend on how you see yourself in the first place and whether you’re framing your goals the right way, according to a study published by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The study, published in the , focused on two types of people: Those who define themselves as independent versus those who define themselves as interdependent. The first category see themselves as defined by their own distinctions and achievements, while the latter define themselves through connections and relationships with others, says study lead author Haiyang Yang, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business.
Next, the researchers looked at the personality types and two different types of goals: attainment goals and maintenance goals. Attainment goals are those where an achievement or new state of being is the desired outcome, such as losing 10 pounds in six months. Maintenance goals are those where the outcome remains the same or better than the current state. For example, not gaining weight during the holidays.
The researchers found that independent people were more motivated by attainment goals, possibly enhancing their distinctions, while interdependent people were more motivated by maintenance goals. In one study, independent people with fewer social ties who had goals related to weight were more likely to set weight loss goals, while the interdependent study participants were more motivated when goals were framed in terms of benefitting their relatives and friends.
“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,” Yang says.
While the study was designed to examine consumer behavior and give product developers and marketers better insight into creating solutions and communicating benefits to prospective customers, the study also has some implications for how people frame their goals. Paying attention to personality type and framing your goals accordingly can have an impact on how motivated you are to achieve them, Yang says.
“Americans tend to hold a relatively independent self-construal. For them, setting attainment goals can be more psychologically motivating than setting the corresponding maintenance goals, even though the latter might be objectively easier,” Yang says.
For example, Yang says a goal of “lose one pound next year” can be more motivating than “keep my weight the same over the next year” for independent types, even though there’s very little difference between the two. For interdependent types, however, “maintain my weight to be healthier for my family” might be a more motivating goal.
This insight can help you better frame your goals. Even when a goal is a maintenance goal, it can be framed as an attainment goal to motivate independent types. For example, “keep saving the same amount of money every month next year” can be framed as “increase my savings to X next year.” At the same time, attainment goals can be tied to community and relationships as a motivator, such as “increase my savings to X next year for my child’s college fund.”
Knowing yourself and what keeps you motivated can help you better state your goals and keep you committed to achieving them. Examining the intersection of your personality type and what keeps you going can help you design your goal so you’re more likely to achieve it, Yang says.