It's the Journey, Not the Destination: How Metaphor Drives Growth After Goal Attainment

It's the Journey, Not the Destination: How Metaphor Drives Growth After Goal Attainment

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).
2020

People pursue goals throughout their lives, and many of these attempts end happily—a goal is achieved. However, what facilitates the continuation of behaviors that are aligned with the completed goal, such as continuing to monitor food intake after completing a diet program? The results of six studies involving over 1,600 people across cultures and samples (executives in Africa, dieters in a seven-day food diary program, exercisers in a 14-day walking program, and college students) demonstrated that construing an achieved goal as a journey one has completed (compared to an alternative metaphor of having reached a destination, or a no-metaphor control) led to a greater likelihood of people continuing behaviors aligned with this attained goal. These findings demonstrated how shifting people’s focus of a metaphor (i.e., focusing on the journey vs. the destination part of a completed path) can lead to consequentially different perceptions and behaviors. We isolated a mechanism for why people would continue goal-aligned behaviors after attaining their specific goals—enhanced perceptions of personal growth.