People with wandering minds tend to stray from long-term goals, suggests new research | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Canadian researchers are looking at whether mindfulness exercises could help people achieve their long-term goals. Image: Redrockschool/ via AFP Relaxnews

If you find your mind often wandering, you may be less likely to stick to your long-term goals, according to new Canadian research.

Carried out by a team from the University of Waterloo, and in cooperation with researchers at Sheridan College, the findings come from three separate studies looking at the effect of mind-wandering on “grit,” a personality trait that involves sustained interest and effort toward long-term goals.

Grit is believed to predict success in careers and education, independent of other personality traits, including intelligence.

In the first two studies, the team surveyed 280 participants on their grittiness, mind-wandering and inattention in everyday life.

In the third study, they surveyed 105 post-secondary students on their mind-wandering during university lectures and then asked them to fill out questionnaires to measure their grittiness.

The team found that those who could stay focused and reported less mind-wandering were also more likely to show grit, reporting maintaining perseverance and passion and grit for their long-term goals.

“Those who often can’t keep their minds on their tasks, such as thinking about weekend plans instead of listening to the lecturer in class, tend to have more fleeting aspirations,” explained lead author Brandon Ralph. “We’ve shown that maintaining concentration over hours and days predicts passion over longer periods.”

The team now wants to research if training the mind to stay focused, for example, with mindfulness training exercises such as meditation, could help to increase grittiness.

“It’s clear that mind-wandering is related to the ability to focus in the moment as well as on long-term goals,” said Ralph. “As we move forward in this work, we’d like to see if practices such as meditation can assist people in achieving their goals.”

The findings can be found published online in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. JB


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