Individuals who make concrete plans to meet their goals may engage in more physical activity, including visits to the gym, compared to those who don’t plan quite so far ahead, research shows. These research findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that self-reported levels of a trait called ‘planfulness’ may translate into real world differences in behavior.
Some people seem to be able to more consistently meet their goals than others, but it remains unclear if personality traits that have been found to promote goal achievement in the lab similarly encourage individuals to achieve long-term goals in their day-to-day lives, says lead researcher Rita M. Ludwig of the University of Oregon.
Conscientiousness, a measure of individuals’ orderliness and dependability on the Big Five Inventory of personality, has long been tied with healthy behaviors, notes Ludwig and colleagues Sanjay Srivastava and Elliot T. Berkman, also of the University of Oregon. Narrowing their focus to a single facet of this trait, planfulness, allows researchers to zero in on the 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.