The why and how of goal pursuits: Effects of global autonomous motivation and perceived control on emotional well-being

Abstract

This study examined the effects of global autonomous motivation and global perceived control on young adults’ adaptive goal striving and emotional well-being. We reasoned that autonomously motivated participants who also perceive high levels of control would make accelerated progress with the pursuit of their most important goal and experience associated increases in emotional well-being. By contrast, we predicted that these benefits of autonomous motivation would be reduced among participants who perceive low levels of control. A 6-month longitudinal study of 125 college students was conducted, and self-reported global autonomous motivation, global perceived control, progress towards the most important goal, and emotional well-being were assessed. Regression analyses showed that the combination of high baseline levels of global autonomous motivation and global perceived control was associated with accelerated goal progress after 6 months, which mediated 6-month increases in emotional well-being. These benefits were not apparent among autonomously motivated participants who perceived low levels of control. The study’s findings suggest that global autonomous motivation and perceived control may need to work together to foster adaptive goal striving and emotional well-being.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We note that previous research (Guay et al. 2003) calculated difference scores between autonomous and controlled motivation. However, since research has established the independence of both dimensions, creating such an index is no longer the norm in SDT literature (Edwards 2001; Stephan et al. 2008).

  2. 2.

    Other items on this scale measuring intrinsic motivation towards sensation and knowledge were excluded from our analysis as they were not related to goal pursuits.

  3. 3.

    We included baseline levels of both positive and negative affect into the analyses because we attempted to document independent effects. We note that the obtained interaction effects on follow-up levels of positive and negative affect were also significant if the outcomes were controlled only for the matching baseline affect.

  4. 4.

    Note that additionally conducted analyses showed that there were no significant three way interactions, including motivation, control, and gender in predicting either emotional well-being or goal progress, all Fs(1, 115) < 0.08, all ps > .78.

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Acknowledgments

The completion of this study was supported by a grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to Carsten Wrosch, and graduate fellowships from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Fonds de la recherche sur la société et la culture, Québec, awarded to E. Gaëlle Hortop.

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Correspondence to E. Gaëlle Hortop or Carsten Wrosch.

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Hortop, E.G., Wrosch, C. & Gagné, M. The why and how of goal pursuits: Effects of global autonomous motivation and perceived control on emotional well-being. Motiv Emot 37, 675–687 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-013-9349-2

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Keywords

  • Autonomous motivation
  • Perceived control
  • Goal attainment
  • Emotional well-being