Catching Goals

What if the company we keep could help us pursue meaningful goals? Perhaps it can…

Goals are a representation of something that we desire or want. It is normal to anticipate that achieving our goals will require some degree of effort. If our goal is to run a marathon or get a promotion at work, we prepare to take certain steps to achieve that goal and then engage in the actions that move us in the direction of goal achievement. As we know, this is not necessarily an easy feat. Working toward goals that can add value to our lives can be challenging; we may not even know where to start with choosing goals that could be beneficial. Let’s explore how the support of others could help us.

We may assume that the goals we pursue are our choice. This is often true as it is, of course, common to make a conscious decision to pursue a goal. But what if the goals we pursue could be influenced by others without our knowing? Goal contagion suggests that we can unconsciously pursue goals that we perceive others to be pursuing. Researchers (Aarts, Hassin, & Gollwitzer, 2004) who have investigated goal contagion have found that:

 Perceiving someone’s goal-directed behavior (e.g., working to make money) can lead us to automatically (unconsciously) pursue that goal too.

According to research, goal contagion may be influenced by:

How much we value that goal (e.g., do we need money or want to be athletic?)

How appropriate that goal is for us.

What Could This Mean for Our Aspirations and Goals?

Perhaps that who we surround ourselves with has the potential to make a big difference. Surrounding ourselves with people who value similar qualities in life (e.g., health, personal growth, social connectedness) can provide us with support in not only pursuing related goals but may further support our wellbeing by exposing us to the many factors that can accompany the pursuit of these goals. Consider the mindset, perspective, attitude, and commitment it may take to achieve an aspirational goal. Spending time with people who are aligned in what we value (or what we aspire to value) may support us as individuals and as members in our communities.

If we are interested in moving toward positive change through the pursuit of meaningful goals, we may begin by asking ourselves questions such as:

Who do we spend our time with?

What are their goals?

Do we share common interests and values?

Do I want to ‘catch’ their goals?

After contemplating these types of questions, we may find some misalignment between ourselves and the company we keep. We may then consider how we could:

Spend more time with others who have similar interests and values

Surround ourselves with others who inspire and motivate us

Explore new friendships, communities, and environments that may support personal growth

Closing Note & Support

When we pursue goals, we can introduce an opportunity to not only enhance our lives but to inspire and support others in their pursuit of meaningful goals. Imagine a thread of catching positive goals from others and then passing those goals onward.

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Resource: Aarts, H., Hassan, R. R., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2004). Goal contagion: Perceiving is for pursuing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 23-27.