Lives for Today vs. Goal-Oriented Personality Traits

How to work with a lives-for-today vs a goal-oriented person at work

People in your workplace will gravitate towards one of two tendencies: focusing on the present or striving towards the future. So how do these traits play out? We’re going to explore both and how they can influence the way you hire, manage, and interact with employees at work.

What is the “lives for today” personality trait?

This trait corresponds with a carefree personality and taking advantage of  each day. People who live for today tend to be more focused on the here and now, rather than a five-year plan or future goals.

What are the characteristics of someone who lives for today?

A few signs that someone has carefree personality traits:

  • They can focus on the work at hand today without being stressed  about everything that needs to get done this week.
  • They tend to be more easy-going.
  • They may not know where they want to be in five years, but they have a keen sense of where they’d like to be now.
  • They look to optimize the present and struggle with delayed gratification.

How to work with a person who is carefree

Learning to work effectively with the live-for-today types on your team can help them thrive in the workplace.

How to train an employee who lives for today
  • Help them put their training into action immediately. When they can see the instant benefit of what they’re learning, they’ll be much more engaged. This might mean breaking up trainings into smaller chunks and having the employee actually perform each task right after learning it .
  • Make sure your training materials are updated and accessible (such as in a wiki or file-sharing program). That way, when the latest information is needed , it’s immediately available.
How to motivate a carefree employee
  • Break big tasks down into smaller, more achievable goals. While the goal-oriented people on your team might be happy to work steadily on a project that goes live next quarter, those who live for today will be more likely to focus on incremental goals.
  • Be mindful of the timeline for making changes. Someone who lives for today is going to be frustrated when promised improvements keep getting kicked down the road, be it filling a vacant role that’s creating stress for the team or being promised professional development for personal improvement.
How to give feedback to an employee who lives for today
  • Set mini-goals and check in regularly for  one-on-one meetings. This can be as simple as asking, “What do you want to achieve this week?” and making sure that’s the first thing you discuss at the next check-in.
  • Provide context for how today’s actions impact the future, since the employee who lives for now might not make the connection.

What is the opposite of living for today?

On the other hand, some people in your office will tend to be much more focused on the future. Someone who is focused on the future – and therefore long-term results or achievements – is what we consider “goal-oriented.”

What is the “goal-oriented” personality trait?

For this person, it all comes back to their goals. A day that brings them closer to those goals is a day well spent. They tend to be driven, future-focused and competitive.

What are the characteristics of a goal-oriented person?

A few ways to tell that a person has a goal-oriented personality:

  • They are purposeful and intentional.
  • They have a ready answer to questions like “What do you think is the next step for you, professionally speaking?” and “What goals do you have for your role here?”
  • They tend to be competitive and are willing to work hard for the “win.”
  • They’re willing to sacrifice in the short term to get what they want in the future.
  • Sometimes, they can come across as cutthroat or overly ambitious, especially depending on their other personality traits. (For more context, check out all of our personality trait descriptions, as well as our guide to overall personality type).

How to work with a goal-oriented person

Goal-oriented people are often valuable contributors, especially when they view success in their role as helping to drive their own long-term goals. Knowing how to work with them can help you harness their focus for your organization’s benefit.

How to train a goal-oriented employee
  • Explain how the day-to-day minutiae fits in with larger goals. For example, you might mention that the new software you’re training them on was brought on to increase efficiency and help meet new productivity goals for next year.
  • Make sure goal-oriented employees have the training and resources they need to achieve their goals. Continuing education and professional development can be great motivators.
How to motivate someone who is goal-oriented
  • Long-term rewards motivate goal-oriented people, so be sure to outline things like career progression and your company’s organizational chart clearly. Goal-oriented people are willing to put in the hard work and time to reach the next level, but they need to see the path.
  • Tap into their competitive instincts. Of course, you don’t want to turn your office environment  into a cutthroat competition (or a corny game show), and unhealthy competition can tank morale across your team. That being said, team goals (such as a thermometer that tracks fundraising dollars raised for your current campaign or a chart showing days since a safety incident) can be really motivating and bring everyone together –  as well as help employees set personal goals and reward their success.
How to give feedback to a goal-oriented employee
  • Give feedback regularly. Your goal-oriented employees genuinely want to know how their performance stacks up. Check in on their progress towards team and professional goals.
  • Talk regularly about goals. Share your own goals about how you’d like to see the employee progress, and hear their goals for the role and their own career. That way, you can frame your feedback around those goals.

Which is a better worker: lives for today vs. goal-oriented?

There isn’t one clear answer to this question. In some roles, you may find that people who live for today tend to thrive, while other jobs seem to demand more goal-oriented personalities. However, we’ve found that in plenty of roles, either kind of person can do well and bring different strengths to the table.

Additionally, remember that this is one of many personality traits that will affect each person’s work differently depending on their other characteristics and abilities, as well as to the degree to which they tend towards either extreme.

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