Go on your gut feeling when setting goals – because more often than not it’ll be right, researchers have revealed.
According to a study by Canada’s University of Alberta, when it comes to working out where the future lies your unconscious mind is both smarter than you think and can be a great motivator.
Alberta School of Business researcher Sarah Moore and colleagues from Duke and Cornell universities say unconscious feelings about objects in the environment influence the pursuit of long-term goals.
Their study explores how the unconscious mind responds to objects in relation to an individual’s goals – and how the unconscious continues to influence feelings about these objects once the goals are reached, whether or not the outcome has been successful.
‘In the past few years, we recognised that some of [Sigmund] Freud’s ideas on the unconscious mind were, in fact, correct and that a lot of our decision-making and a lot of our feelings are based on things that we’re not really aware of,’ said Moore, who is an assistant professor in the Alberta School of Business.
‘In our study, we looked at how our unconscious feelings about objects in the environment influence how we pursue goals.’
Moore notes previous studies have shown when it comes to short-term, finite goals, such as responding to basic needs like thirst or hunger, the unconscious will evaluate objects and form preferences based on whether the object will help an individual achieve the goal.
She says in the case of thirst, items such as a water fountain or a bottle of Coke will be seen favourably, while a chocolate bar or KFC sign would not.
However, she explains that, once the goal is reached, those same objects will be evaluated differently.
‘Once your thirst is quenched, you don’t evaluate the water fountain positively anymore because you’ve accomplished the goal,’ she said. ‘But there are differences when we look at long-term goals.’
Moore’s research focused on longer-term goals, such as getting in shape or undertaking educational pursuits.