People with a sense of purpose are more likely to make choices with long-term benefits like saving for retirement and children’s education.
In addition, they are less likely to be diverted by short-term gratification and impulsive actions like such as cigarette smoking, drug use, gambling, and driving under the influence, found Cornell’s Anthony L. Burrow and R. Nathan Spreng in work with more than 500 adults.
As a result, Purpose in Life was related to reduced impulsivity and increased self-control.
Volunteers completed a personality inventory and a self-rating of Purpose in Life before making choices about whether to take a smaller amount of money immediately or a larger amount at some later date.
Waiting times and amount of the payoffs differed during each trial.
Participants who said they had a clear life purpose made longer-term, higher-payoff choices, suggesting greater ability to curb the impulse for an immediate reward, and greater self-management capacity.
Another factor in reducing one type of impulsive behavior – dangerous driving – is a “positivity bias,” hallmarked by seeing positive events as more salient than negative incidents, reported University of Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Chai Jing , Weina Qu, Xianghong Sun, Kan Zhang, and Yan Ge.
They studied more than 40 non-professional drivers using electroencephalograph data, self-reports of driving, violation reports, and International Affective Picture System (IAPS) scores to measure negativity biases.
Volunteers identified whether a series of 80 pictures had blue borders or red borders around images that implicitly evoke negative, positive, or neutral emotions.
Dangerous drivers took longer to respond on the border-color task when the image was negative, suggesting greater attention to negative input.
Sense of purpose is also linked to greater longevity in a study by Carleton University’s Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester, in their study of more than 6100 Americans followed over 14 years.
Purpose in Life can increase White adult’s comfort with diverse groups, and may be associated with reduced prejudice, noted Cornell’s Burrow and Rachel Sumner, Maclen Stanley of Harvard, and Carlton University’s Patrick L. Hill in their study of more than 500 Americans.
Participants who received an experimental prime of life purpose also reported less preference for living in an ethnically homogeneous White city.
These effects persisted were independent of volunteers’ positive affect and perceived connections to ethnic out-groups.
Humility is another characteristic associated with reduced impulsivity and greater self-control in research by National University of Singapore’s Eddie M.W. Tong, Kenny W.T. Tan, Agapera A.B. Chor, Emmeline P.S. Koh, Jehanne S.Y. Lee, and Regina W.Y. Tan.
Defined as the ability to tolerate failures without self-deprecation, and to view successes without developing a sense of superiority, humility primes were associated with improved performance in a physical stamina (handgrip), resisting chocolate, and an insoluble tracing task.
Humility’s effect on self-regulation was significantly different from self-esteem, which had no impact on self-control.
Likewise, achievement motivation and compliance motivation did not explain increased performance.
Taken together, these findings suggest that effectively managing oneself in the face of challenging and tempting circumstances is enhanced by having a clear purpose in life, cultivating a positive bias and humility.
-*To what extent does having a sense of purpose make it easier to maintain self-control in challenging situations?
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