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Growth Motivation Toward Two Paths of Eudaimonic Self-Development

Abstract

Growth motivation is studied as a desire for personal growth, framed within a model of eudaimonic growth and self-development (Bauer and McAdams in Dev Psychol 46:761–772, 2010). Five studies examine two facets of growth motivation (reflective and experiential) that aim respectively toward two paths of eudaimonic self-development (maturity/wisdom and well-being/meaningfulness). Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that participants differentiate concerns for reflective and experiential growth motivation, suggesting that people think about personal growth not merely in global terms. Studies 3–5 demonstrate that reflective growth motivation primarily predicts measures of psychosocial maturity, whereas experiential growth motivation primarily predicts measures of well-being, suggesting that motives for two facets of growth motivation correspond to the relative attainment of two facets of eudaimonic self-development. These relations hold when controlling for global measures of personal growth. Furthermore, reflective and experiential growth motivation simultaneously and independently predict generativity and self-actualization (constructs that incorporate qualities of both wisdom/maturity and happiness/well-being), suggesting that reflective and experiential growth motivation, despite their differentiation, also speak to a global, integrative notion of personal growth. The role of growth motivation within the context of eudaimonia and human development is discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Erikson’s (1950) theory of psychosocial development is a major theory of psychosocial maturity, yet his theory differs from these others in one important aspect—Erikson’s explicit focus on the psychologically healthy development of the person. Each of the other theories emphasizes something closer to thinking about the self and others with integrative complexity than to thinking about the self and others in a healthy manner. Elements of integrative complexity are embedded within each of Erikson’s stages in that each adult stage, for example, involves an identification with a broader and more complex locus in psychosocial space.

  2. 2.

    Incidentally, the PWB—Personal Growth subscale (PWB-PG—Ryff and Singer 1998) includes items that measure our definition of meaningfulness (i.e., fulfillment in the sense of having grown personally) as well as motivation (i.e., the valuing of personal growth). PWB-PG has been described as the PWB dimension that “comes closest in meaning to Aristotle’s eudaimonia” (Ryff and Singer 2008, p. 21). PWB-PG has empirical ties to both reflective and experiential growth narratives (Bauer et al. 2005).

  3. 3.

    Reflective and experiential growth motives are based directly on reflective and experiential growth narratives, which are personal narratives that emphasize growth. We developed the GMI in order to get a quick, self-report measure of growth motivations without having to employ the time-consuming methods of narrative research. What we call “reflective” growth has also been called “exploratory,” “integrative,” and “intellectual,” whereas “experiential” growth has also been called “intrinsic” and “socioemotional” (Bauer and McAdams 2004a, 2010; Bauer et al. 2005). We hope that we have finally settled on terms that describe the basic phenomenon that cuts across this research. We thank past and present reviewers—and countless colleagues—for their suggestions. We borrow the term “reflective” from Tiberius’s book on the reflective life, which captured our sense that eudaimonic wisdom is important but not the only important feature of a good life (2008).

  4. 4.

    The present studies employ the original, single-scale version of PGIS. A recent revision of the PGIS has four subscales (readiness for change, planfulness, using resources, and intentional behavior—Robitschek et al. 2012), but they do not appear to differentiate the reflective and experiential facets of eudaimonic growth.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Bill Moroney and his Spring 2007 PSY 410/506—Questionnaire Design course, especially Angela Lauer, for providing numerous insights and suggestions during the initial stage of this research. We also wish to thank Hiroko Kamide, Shaun Perciful, Nicole Arbuckle, Laura Graham, and Bridget Lynch for their insights and assistance with these studies and the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jack J. Bauer.

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Bauer, J.J., Park, S.W., Montoya, R.M. et al. Growth Motivation Toward Two Paths of Eudaimonic Self-Development. J Happiness Stud 16, 185–210 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9504-9

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Keywords

  • Growth motivation
  • Eudaimonia
  • Maturity
  • Well-being
  • Meaning
  • Self-development