Washington: Researchers have said that maintaining an interest in the goals you pursue can improve your work and reduce burnout.
Paul O’Keefe, who conducted the studies as a doctoral student in Duke University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, along with associate professor Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, said their research shows that interest is important in the process of pursuing goals.
It allows us to perform at high levels without wearing out.
The studies suggest that if people experience activities as both enjoyable and personally significant – two important components of interest – their chance of success increases.
In the first study, 153 Duke undergraduate students worked on a set of word puzzles. They were asked to report how enjoyable they thought the task would be before they began working on it.
Then they worked on the puzzles, which were described as either being personally valuable (value condition) or of neutral value (control condition).
Those who reported high anticipated enjoyment and who were in the condition framed as important performed the best.
Co-author Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, who is now a faculty member at Michigan State University, said they didn’t perform better simply because their interest drove them to work longer.
Instead, their engagement was highly efficient. In other words, they were ‘in the zone,’ as athletes say.
The researchers then wanted to see if this increased performance would come at the cost of wearing out, or if interest would help maintain mental resources.
Using a similar procedure to the first study, they assessed participants’ anticipated enjoyment of the task as well as their value for it.
After working on the word puzzles, an experimenter timed how long they were able to keep a spring-loaded hand grip squeezed — the kind used for exercise.
The studies has been published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.