Social Indicators Research

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 391-422

Assessing Spirituality Through Personal Goals: Implications for Research on Religion and Subjective Well-Being

  • Robert A. EmmonsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California
  • , Chi CheungAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California
  • , Keivan TehraniAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California

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This article is concerned with the conceptual and methodological issues in the measurement of personal goals, with special emphasis on assessing spiritual and religious content in goals. The research literature on personal goals and subjective well-being is reviewed and synthesized. A comparison of several popular goal units in the research literature is included. Goal content and goal conflict have been reliably associated with well-being in past research. Spiritual or religious content in personal goals emerges as having an especially strong influence on well-being, and recent research on spiritual personal strivings and well-being is summarized. One of the primary purposes of the article is to consider conceptual and methodological challenges in the measurement of spirituality through personal goals. The advantages of a combined idiographic-nomothetic approach to measuring spirituality through purposive behavior are enumerated. A personal goals approach to studying spiritual motivation can make an important contribution to understanding how religiosity affects well-being, thus expanding religion's role in quality of life research.