Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1615–1634 | Cite as

A Good Story: Using Future Life Narratives to Predict Present Well-Being

  • Eric D. HillEmail author
  • Heather K. Terrell
  • Andrea Arellano
  • Blake Schuetz
  • Craig T. Nagoshi
Research Paper


The present research examined the predictive and nomological validity of a narrative method for assessing goals. College students (N = 337, 158 women, M age = 19.08) from a large, public university wrote short narratives about their best possible selves in the future, imagining that they had realized all of their life dreams. Narratives were coded in terms of the number of statements reflecting each of fourteen types of goals. Intercoder reliability was strong. With regard to predictive validity, intrinsic goals, particularly spiritual and intimacy goals were positively related to well-being. Extrinsic goals, power goals in particular, tended to be negatively related to well-being. With regard to nomological validity, the spiritual goals-well-being relationship was mediated by frequency of religious service attendance and self-report measures of religiosity. Interestingly, intrinsic goals were negatively related to life satisfaction. Results are discussed in the context of self-determination theory and the internalization of extrinsic motivations.


Life goals Intrinsic goals Extrinsic goals Spirituality Well-being Narratives Narrative content coding College students 



We thank Adam Cohen, Joanna Gorin, and Andrew Christopher for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric D. Hill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heather K. Terrell
    • 2
  • Andrea Arellano
    • 3
  • Blake Schuetz
    • 1
  • Craig T. Nagoshi
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceAlbion CollegeAlbionUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology and School of Social WorkUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA

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