A recent article in Science Daily summarized the research findings from Niemiec, Ryan, and Deci that was published in the June 2009 issue of Journal of Research in Personality.
Basically, it is true that all that glitters is not gold. There have been countless studies at this point that confirm that pursuing extrinsic pleasures/rewards (e.g., wealth, beauty, status) does not result in lasting happiness. These researchers at the University of Rochester have found even more evidence that pursuing these extrinsic aspirations results in less happiness than those who pursue more intrinsic aspirations (e.g., personal growth, developing/maintaining loving relationships, contributing to community).
Using in-depth surveys, the researchers tracked 147 alumni from 2 universities through their second year after graduation. Based on initial survey responses, these young adults were identified as either having primarily “intrinsic” or “extrinsic” aspirations.
The researchers found that the more committed that an individual was to a goal, the more likely they were to attain it. What was so interesting in this study is that the happiness of these young adults was tied to the type of aspirations they had. Achieving extrinsic goals such high income and other materialistic and image-related milestones contributed to the ill-being of individuals. These individuals experienced more negative emotions such as shame and anger and more physical symptoms of stress such as loss of energy, headaches, and stomachaches.
In contrast, individuals who achieved intrinsic goals such as personal growth, physical health, close relationships, and community involvement experienced a deeper sense of well-being, fewer physical symptoms of stress, more positive feelings toward themselves, and richer interpersonal relationships.
In my next post, I’m going to talk more about why the researchers got these findings…and how you can use this information to enhance your own personal well-being.