Looking Forward: The Effect of the Best-Possible-Self Intervention on Thriving Through Relative Intrinsic Goal Pursuits

Abstract

How do positive interventions work? We hypothesized that an increase in the importance individuals place on intrinsic rather than extrinsic goal pursuits (relative intrinsic goal pursuits; RIGP) explains the effectiveness of the best possible self (BPS) intervention. We randomized 128 mainly female psychology undergraduates to perform either the BPS intervention or a daily activities control. We assessed thriving (comprehensive inventory of thriving) and RIGP (Aspiration Index) before, immediately after, and 2 weeks after the intervention. Results from a cross-lagged panel design path analysis indicate that the BPS intervention effectively increased thriving (r = .11, p = .010). However, RIGP do not mediate the intervention effect (95% CI [− 0.01, 0.01]). Our results challenge predictions derived from self-determination theory. We suggest that future studies test goal ambivalence as a mediator.

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Acknowledgements

The first author of this study received a scholarship from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and is deeply thankful for the financial and personal support. The authors acknowledge and are thankful to Prof. Dr. Michael Eid for his invaluable advice throughout all steps of this study. Furthermore, the authors thank Dr. Timo Lorenz for helping them open up new perspectives.

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Designed the experiments: JH KH. Conceived and performed the experiments: JH. Analyzed the data: JH. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KH. Wrote the paper: JH.

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Correspondence to Johannes Bodo Heekerens.

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Heekerens, J.B., Heinitz, K. Looking Forward: The Effect of the Best-Possible-Self Intervention on Thriving Through Relative Intrinsic Goal Pursuits. J Happiness Stud 20, 1379–1395 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-9999-6

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Keywords

  • Positive psychology intervention
  • Best-possible-self
  • Well-being
  • Thriving
  • Life goal
  • Self-determination theory