Happiness Goal Orientations and their Associations with Well-Being

Abstract

Previous research has provided contradicting findings on whether valuing and pursuing happiness is beneficial or detrimental to one’s level of well-being. These contradicting findings might be resolved by considering these so-called Happiness Goal Orientations (HGO) as a multidimensional construct. The goals of this paper were (1) to present a new multidimensional scale to measure HGO and (2) to investigate whether the different dimensions of the scale are differentially related to well-being. Inspired by theories that distinguish between different dimensions of motivational systems and goal pursuit, we developed and validated the HGO Scale in four independent studies. The scale distinguishes two dimensions: Happiness-Related Strivings represent the propensity to move actively and persistently toward the desired level of happiness. Happiness-Related Concerns represent the propensity to worry about and to focus on threats to one’s level of happiness. Happiness-Related Strivings are associated with approach-related constructs, positivity, successful strategies to regulate one’s moods and emotions, endorsing a broad range of happiness definitions, and the intention to pursue different happiness definitions in everyday life. Happiness-Related Concerns are associated with avoidance-related constructs, anxiety, poor strategies to regulate one’s moods and emotions, defining happiness solely as the absence of negativity, and having no intentions to pursue happiness in everyday life. Happiness-Related Strivings are positively associated with well-being, whereas Happiness-Related Concerns are negatively associated with well-being. These differential associations with well-being demonstrate the importance of considering HGO as a multidimensional construct and that HGO can be both beneficial and detrimental to one’s level of well-being.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    To reproduce our results, all data files and R-codes can be found online:

    https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=08b08fa372ee4f60b923cd2b5046cb32

  2. 2.

    Figures of the item distributions can be found in the online materials: https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=485d5346d5904c90ba3fd21614bd1860

  3. 3.

    After data collection was already progressed, female participants were no longer eligible to participate to assure a reasonable number of male participants.

  4. 4.

    To reproduce our results, all data files and R-codes can be found online:

    https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=485d5346d5904c90ba3fd21614bd1860

  5. 5.

    Figures of the item distributions can be found in the online materials: https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=485d5346d5904c90ba3fd21614bd1860

  6. 6.

    Due to rather weak loadings and the potential to increase model fit we also considered excluding Items 7 or 9. We decided to keep these items, since their exclusion would have had a greater negative impact on the internal consistency (between αdiff = −.02 and αdiff = −.05) than the removal of Item 27.

  7. 7.

    As soon as the corresponding article is publicly available, the preregistration will also be publicly available following this link: https://osf.io/apj9m/. Please note that we refer to outdated labels for the scales in the preregistration (Significance of Happiness instead of Happiness Goal Orientations; Active Pursuit of Happiness instead of Happiness-Related Strivings; Unhappiness as Threat instead of Happiness-Related Concerns; openness for development instead of personal development).

  8. 8.

    To reproduce our results, all data files and R-codes can be found online:

    https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=485d5346d5904c90ba3fd21614bd1860

  9. 9.

    Figures of the item distributions can be found in the online materials: https://osf.io/dg83m/?view_only=485d5346d5904c90ba3fd21614bd1860

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Vivien Janowicz, Markus Krause, and Marie von Rogal for their help with this manuscript. Please note that parts of this work were not preregistered.

Funding

Preparation of this manuscript was supported by grant #57313 awarded to Maike Luhmann by the Happiness & Well-Being Project, a joint program by the St. Louis University and the Templeton Foundation.

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Correspondence to Julia Krasko.

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Research Involving Human Participants

The studies were conducted in accordance with the ethical recommendations put forward by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (DGPs). Data collection for Studies 1 and 2a were conducted at the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of Cologne, where no local ethics committee was present at the time. Studies 2b and 3 were approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr University Bochum.

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Appendix

Appendix

The Happiness Goal Orientations Scale: German version

Instruktion: Bitte geben Sie an, wie sehr die folgenden Aussagen auf Sie zutreffen. Antwortformat: 1 (trifft überhaupt nicht zu) - 5 (trifft voll und ganz zu)

  1. 1.

    Ich strenge mich besonders an, um glücklich zu sein.

  2. 2.

    Ich scheue keine Mühen um zu verhindern, unglücklich zu sein.

  3. 3.

    Ich tue alles dafür um zu verhindern, unglücklich zu sein.

  4. 4.

    Ich überwinde oft Hürden, um glücklich zu werden.

  5. 5.

    Ich versuche aktiv glücklich zu werden.

  6. 6.

    Ich mache mir oft Sorgen, dass ich in der Zukunft unglücklich sein könnte.

  7. 7.

    Ich habe Angst davor, unglücklich zu sein.

  8. 8.

    Ich achte mehr auf Bedrohungen als auf erfreuliche Ereignisse.

  9. 9.

    Ich mache mir viele Sorgen darüber, dass es mir nicht gelingen könnte, glücklich zu sein.

  10. 10.

    Ich sehe häufig davon ab, etwas zu tun, weil ich Angst habe, dass es mich unglücklich machen könnte.

Subskalen: Bemühtes Streben nach Glück (1–5), Besorgt über Unglück (6–10)

The Happiness Goal Orientations Scale: English version

Instruction: Please indicate, to what extend you agree with the following statements. Response format: 1 (does not apply) - 5 (applies completely)

  1. 1.

    I try very hard to be happy.

  2. 2.

    I go out of my way to avoid being unhappy.

  3. 3.

    I do everything I can to avoid being unhappy.

  4. 4.

    I often overcome challenges to become happy.

  5. 5.

    I actively try to become happy.

  6. 6.

    I am often worried that I might be unhappy in the future.

  7. 7.

    I am scared of being unhappy.

  8. 8.

    I focus more on threats than on pleasant events.

  9. 9.

    I worry a lot that I might not succeed in being happy.

  10. 10.

    I often refrain from doing something because I am scared that it might make me unhappy.

Subscales: Happiness-Related Strivings (1–5), Happiness-Related Concerns (6–10).

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Krasko, J., Schweitzer, V.M. & Luhmann, M. Happiness Goal Orientations and their Associations with Well-Being. J well-being assess 4, 121–162 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41543-020-00029-x

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Subjective well-being
  • Psychological well-being
  • Scale development
  • Pursuit of happiness
  • Lay definitions of happiness