New York: If you haven’t been able to meet your gym goals despite your best efforts to get up early or run on a hot summer afternoon, blame it on your personality.
According to University of Oregon researchers, some people appear to be able to meet their goals more consistently than others, but it is unclear whether personality traits encourage individuals to achieve long-term goals in their day-to-day lives.
Conscientiousness has long been associated with positive behaviours.
Focusing on “planfulness,” lead researcher Rita M. Ludwig and colleagues Sanjay Srivastava and Elliot T. Berkman focused on psychological processes such as mental flexibility and a person’s ability to make short-term sacrifices in pursuit of future success that contribute directly to achieving long-term goals.
“There appears to be a way of thinking about goals that correlates with long-term progress,” Ludwig said.
“What’s novel about this study is that we used an objective measure of goal progress that could be recorded as participants went about their daily lives: their check-ins at a nearby gym.”
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that self-reported levels of the trait known as “planfulness” may translate into real-world behavioural differences.
Over a 20-week period, the team examined the gym attendance of 282 participants.
The participants, many of whom were students, provided a written description of their exercise plans as well as completed self-control and grit assessments.
While all participants’ gym attendance decreased over the course of each semester, individuals who rated themselves high on “planfulness” items such as “developing a clear plan when I have a goal is important to me” went to the gym more throughout both semesters than those who rated themselves lower on “planfulness.”
According to the researchers, “planfulness” was only significantly associated with the frequency of participants’ gym attendance during the winter semester, possibly due to participants completing their physical activity plan later in the year.
While there was a small but significant relationship between participant planfulness and the level of detail in their physical activity plans, Ludwig and colleagues discovered that descriptiveness had no relationship with gym attendance.
“It seems logical that people who achieve their goals would be able to write in detail about their planning process,” Ludwig explained.
“We were therefore surprised to discover that there was no relationship between people’s goal pursuit behaviour and how they wrote about their goals.”