Changes in life goals propel success

DNVN - Although life objectives evolve over time, research on adolescent goals reveals that attaining a high level of prestige and education can serve as catalysts for achievement.

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Teens spend a lot of time thinking about their life goals as future-thinkers. According to a new study from the University of Houston, as people progress from teenagers to young adults, the importance they place on certain life goals shifts, but one thing remains constant: the presence of high prestige and education goals, as well as their positive development, can drive success.

"Adolescents who endorsed higher levels of prestige and education goals tended to have higher educational attainment, income, occupational creativity, occupational prestige and job complexity after 12 years," reports Rodica Damian, associate professor of psychology in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Andreea Sutu, the paper's first author, is Damian's former graduate student. Kevin Hoff, a former UH assistant professor, and Sif Einarsdóttir from the University of Iceland are also members of the team.

No previous studies have looked into the relationship between life goal development and educational or occupational outcomes.

Goals change over time, according to research by Damian and colleagues. While some childhood aspirations fade, others that are connected to family (such as being near relatives), relationships (such as having close friends or a romantic partner), and community (such as volunteering in your neighbourhood or supporting others) endure. These objectives could become even more important as people age.

"Life goals are expected to change over time and these changes are expected to have consequences for future life outcomes, including occupational outcomes," according to Damian. "By understanding how changes in life goals relate to educational and occupational outcomes (above and beyond adolescent levels), we show how changes within individuals may also predict desired educational and occupational attainment."

The research investigated the correlation between the progression of life goals from adolescence to young adulthood and the educational achievement and occupational outcomes of young adults. Two nationally representative samples of Icelandic adolescents were longitudinally followed for a period of twelve years, from late adolescence to young adulthood.

"For educational attainment, the strongest effects were found for education goals. Both initial levels and slopes of education goals were positively associated with educational attainment in both samples," said Damian. "This indicates that adolescents with higher education goals, and those who showed a more positive change pattern in education goals, had higher educational attainment in young adulthood."

It was found that education and prestige objectives were the most reliable predictors of future income, and that temporal changes in these objectives were the most reliable predictors of future occupational complexity and prestige.

"Our work highlights the importance of better understanding sources of goal development in adolescence and young adulthood. Overall, our focus on life goal development, educational attainment and occupational outcomes informs theoretical and practical understanding about the importance of life goals for real-world outcomes," said Damian.

Reference: Andreea Sutu, Kevin A. Hoff, Chu Chu, Sif Einarsdóttir, James Rounds, Rodica Ioana Damian. Life goal development, educational attainment, and occupational outcomes: A 12-year, multisample longitudinal study.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2024; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000499

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