‘Dreaming big’ has been much maligned in the film and TV industries (The Wolf of Wall Street, Trading Places, or Glengarry Glen Ross), yet scientific research shows that dreaming big is not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it can bring about greater satisfaction. People who set ambitious goals are essentially more fulfilled than those who formulate conservative ones, as found by researchers at the University of California – Riverside. Why are ambitions linked to greater happiness, and what does having ambitious goals truly mean?
Setting The Bar High
In the above study, researchers set up two experiments to compare those who set themselves challenging goals to those who don’t. They then measured the level of satisfaction that resulted when these goals were achieved. Lead researcher, Cecile Cho, stated that the moral of the story was “to aim high.” Their results showed that when people have ambitious aims, they give themselves higher points for the hard work they have invested. Staying motivated is key to dreaming big, with previous research by Cho and colleagues showing that those with shifting motivational states are more likely to be led off track by irrelevant information.
Materialism Isn’t The End Of Happiness
Having ambitious goals means different things to different people. For some, it involves physical and mental sacrifice – for instance, completing an IronMan race or improving one’s health results. For others, however, it can be purely materialistic – such as the purchase of a sports car or designer outfit. A recent study by Ford has shown that sports cars can boost your mood; in essence, the ‘buzz moments’ or ‘high-intensity thrills’ they afford, can be even higher than those experienced when kissing someone or watching your favorite series. Car enthusiasts can spend days reading through car reviews to find their perfect match, almost as though they were pursuing a love interest, and doing so does not make them lonely or enhance a supposed void. As found in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “The pursuit of material possessions as part of a lifestyle of ‘happy hedonism’ may not actually be detrimental to consumer well-being when kept within certain limits.”
Making Goals Concrete
When you set goals for yourself, try to make them concrete rather than abstract. Stanford University researchers found that when you have a specific goal – for instance “increasing home recycling levels” – rather than abstract ones – such as “saving the environment” – you are more likely to enjoy greater satisfaction. The reason, scientists said, is that concrete goals are more likely to be met in reality, thereby giving us the ‘reward factor’ we seek when we set them.
If you are a dreamer, know that this can lead to greater satisfaction – contrary to the ideals often portrayed in the media. Materialism isn’t always a negative pursuit either, provided it is kept within healthy limits. When dreaming, try to dream in vivid color, and make the scenario as realistic as possible so you can enjoy the rewards that arise from achieving a difficult goal through hard work.