Whether you’re a creative type or a hunger-driven businessperson focused on making big bucks and leading a successful career, new research from the University of California, Davis found that personal goals are often set based on an individual’s personality traits.
And like a chameleon, these goals can change over time.
Lead author Olivia E. Atherton said it was a unique opportunity to look at how personalities and goals are shaped across one’s life. It’s an interesting study that can be extended to the workplace as workers often evolve into new people as their careers move forward, often adapting to new surroundings or even switching career paths due to new values in life.
“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,” Atherton said in a press release. “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.”
The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, involved more than 500 college students and recorded responses at the start of their college career, each year during their college tenure, and 20 years down the road which focused on the goals that were set such as being creative, having a successful career, family values, money, or being active in religion or politics.
Researchers said that while half of the respondents’ goals remained the same over two decades, there were notable changes that happened in the later years of the study.
Researchers honed in on the “Big Five” personality traits — neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness — which can often separate one person from another person.
Along with the Big Five traits, researchers also looked at goals set by each individual. These ranged in many types such as:
- Being creative or artistic .
- Wanting success in a career.
- Getting married and starting a family.
- Having fun and pleasurable experiences.
- Political dreams .
- Pursuing religion.
- Helping others.
Researchers said the study found that from age 18 to 40, agreeableness and conscientiousness increased in participants, but very little change occurred to openness, experience, and extraversion.
Neuroticism was the only personality trait to see a decrease in the duration of the study, researchers said.
While we all set lofty goals early in our careers, our perception of their importance changes over time. Researchers said that participants said goals become less important later in life, which is likely because goals are often set with an age-target in mind. Thus, when someone reaches a goal, they’ve achieved what they sought out to do and the goal becomes less important.
Certain personality traits were also associated with life development, the researcher said. Those who focused on family and social tended to be more agreeable, kind and compassionate; others who focused on money and family goals fell under categories of responsible, organization, and self-control.