Effective Challenge Regulation Coincides with Promotion Focus-Related Success and Emotional Well-Being
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Beyond a hedonic model of the good life—approach pleasure and avoid pain—evidence is accumulating across species that well-being depends on potentially painful goal pursuit processes, like effort, engagement, and discovery. We hypothesized that daily challenges may provide a unique opportunity to fulfill such processes and that challenges would be more relevant within the promotion (gain-focused) than prevention (nonloss-focused) motivational system. Accordingly, we predicted that: (1) individuals who tend to be successful versus unsuccessful in achieving promotion-type goals would be better at managing daily challenges; and (2) challenge dysregulation would undermine promotion-related well-being (depressive symptoms) more than prevention-related well-being (anxiety symptoms). Across three studies, we find evidence in support of these hypotheses. Notably, as we find consistent evidence that too many and too few challenges may be damaging to mental health, we conclude that effective challenge regulation—not minimization—is likely to be a necessary component of optimal well-being.
KeywordsMotivation Well-being Mental health Regulatory focus theory Biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat Positive psychology Welfare Depression and anxiety
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: Grant 39429 from the United States National Institute of Mental Health to E. Tory Higgins.
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