Pursuing Both Imminent and Long-Term Goals 

September 13, 2021

Franki Kung

We have all been in there: a big project gets assigned at the beginning of the semester. You plan to work on it for a few hours every week. But somehow, the night before the deadline arrives, you have barely made a dent in the work. So now, you are stuck working late and wondering, “why didn’t I work on this all semester!?” 

You are not alone in this struggle. Research shows that most people tend to prioritize goals with shorter deadlines. While this tendency might have saved you from missing some homework assignments, it might be keeping you from accomplishing some significant goals. Take as evidence the stack of untouched books on your shelf or gym membership you have yet to use. 

Some argue the most rewarding and fulfilling accomplishments have to do with realizing one's full potential and ideal version of themself - referred to as ‘self-actualization.’ These can be accomplishments like being a good parent or reaching excellence in your painting ability. Unfortunately, trying to reach your full potential through continuous growth probably does not have a firm deadline, making it easy to put off while working on more present goals. 

Dante Bruno

Self-actualization has many psychological benefits, as research finds, as it relates to greater life satisfaction, self-acceptance, positive relationships, personal growth, and a sense of purpose in life. For our long-term well-being, it is essential not to forget our self-actualization goals, reminding ourselves why we do what we do when we are busy juggling deadlines 

One tool that might help is the time management matrix which categorizes goals in terms of urgency and importance. How much time do you spend working towards goals that feel urgent but are unimportant instead of pursuing valuable, long-term ones? Are there ways you can improve this balance?

Being intentional about these choices could help you reach your full potential and lead a happier and healthier life. 

Key Reference

Kaufman SB. Self-actualizing people in the 21st Century: Integration with contemporary theory and research on personality and well-being (2018). Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 1-33. doi:10.1177/0022167818809187 

Dante Bruno (B.S.) and Franki Kung (Ph.D)

Dante Bruno received his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University in 2020. Since then, he has been working at Newell Brands in the Supply Chain Management Development Program and volunteering as a research assistant with Dr. Franki Kung in the Conflict and Mindset Collaboratory.

Dr. Franki Kung is an Assistant Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and directs the Purdue's Conflict and Mindset Collaboratory at Purdue University. His interdisciplinary research generates knowledge to improve conflict management of individuals and organizations.

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