Means, Ends, and Happiness: The Role of Goals for Subjective Well-Being

Chapter

Abstract

Through the pursuit of goals people take charge of their own lives. Unsurprisingly, personal goals also have important implications for subjective well-being. The current chapter reviews the conditions under which and the processes through which goal pursuit fosters or hinders the experience of subjective well-being. It provides answers to questions like: Does pursuing goals make people happy? And is the pursuit of all kinds of goals conducive of happiness or what is the role of goal content for happiness? Does it matter whether individuals try to avoid bad outcomes or try to approach good outcomes through their goals? Does it make people happier to pursue concrete goals and to focus on the process or to pursue abstract goals and have the desired outcome in mind? Should individuals always stick to their goals or can it be useful to disengage? And finally: Does what we know about goals and well-being hold universally across all cultures?

Keywords

Goals Goal pursuit Goal qualities Well-being Happiness 

References

  1. Austin, J. T., & Vancouver, J. B. (1996). Goal constructs in psychology: Structure, process, and content. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 338–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baltes, P. B. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation for developmental theory. American Psychologist, 52, 366–380.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumann, N., Kaschel, R., & Kuhl, J. (2005). Striving for unwanted goals: Stress-dependent discrepancies between explicit and implicit achievement motives reduce subjective well-being and increase psychosomatic symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 781–799.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond, M. H. (1988). Finding universal dimensions of individual variation in multicultural studies of values: The Rokeach and Chinese value surveys. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 1009–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brandstätter, V., Herrmann, M., & Schüler, J. (2013). The struggle of giving up personal goals: Affective, physiological, and cognitive consequences of an action crisis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1668–1682.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandstätter, V., & Schüler, J. (2013). Action crisis and cost–benefit thinking: A cognitive analysis of a goal-disengagement phase. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 543–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brehm, J. W., & Self, E. A. (1989). The intensity of motivation. Annual Review of Psychology, 40, 109–131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Brunstein, J. C. (1993). Personal goals and subjective well-being: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1061–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brunstein, J. C., Schultheiss, O. C., & Grässmann, R. (1998). Personal goals and emotional well-being: The moderating role of motive dispositions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 494–508.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Carver, C. S. (2004). Negative affects deriving from the behavioral approach system. Emotion, 4, 3–22.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Carver, C. S. (2009). Threat sensitivity, incentive sensitivity, and the experience of relief. Journal of Personality, 77, 125–138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Carver, C. S. (2015). Control processes, priority management, and affective dynamics. Emotion Review, 7, 301–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carver, C. S., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2009). Anger is an approach-related affect: Evidence and implications. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 183–204.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1990). Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychological Review, 97, 19–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1998). On the self-regulation of behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Castonguay, A., Wrosch, C., & Sabiston, C. M. (2014). Systemic inflammation among breast cancer survivors: The roles of goal disengagement capacities and health-related self-protection. Psycho-Oncology, 23, 878–885.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Coats, E. J., Janoff-Bulman, R., & Alpert, N. (1996). Approach versus avoidance goals: Differences in self-evaluation and well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1057–1067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DeCharms, R. (1968). Personal causation. The internal affective determinants of behavior. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  20. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Publishing Co..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). A motivational approach to self: Integration in personality. In R. Dienstbier (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation, Perspectives on motivation (Vol. 38, pp. 237–288). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  22. Derryberry, D., & Reed, M. A. (2002). Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 225–236.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Derryberry, D., & Reed, M. A. (2008). Motivational and attentional components of personality. In A. Elliot (Ed.), Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation (pp. 461–474). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  24. Diener, E., & Emmons, R. A. (1984). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1105–1117.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1995). Resources, personal strivings, and subjective wellbeing: A nomothetic and idiographic approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 926–935.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Dunne, E., Wrosch, C., & Miller, G. E. (2011). Goal disengagement, functional disability, and depressive symptoms in old age. Health Psychology, 30, 763–770.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Ebner, N. C., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2006). Developmental changes in personal goal orientation from young to late adulthood: From striving for gains to maintenance and prevention of losses. Psychology and Aging, 21, 664–678.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Elliot, A. J., Chirkov, V. I., Kim, Y., & Sheldon, K. M. (2001). A cross-cultural analysis of avoidance (relative to approach) personal goals. Psychological Science, 12, 505–510.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Elliot, A. J., & Church, M. A. (2002). Client-articulated avoidance goals in the therapy context. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1994). Goal setting, achievement orientation, and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 968–980.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (1999). Test anxiety and the hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 628–644.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Elliot, A. J., & Sheldon, K. M. (1998). Avoidance personal goals and the personality- illness relationship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1282–1299.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Elliot, A. J., Sheldon, K. M., & Church, M. A. (1997). Avoidance personal goals and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 915–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Emmons, R. A. (1986). Personal strivings: An approach to personality and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1058–1068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Emmons, R. A. (1991). Personal strivings, daily life events and psychological and physical well-being. Journal of Personality, 59, 453–472.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Emmons, R. A. (1992). Abstract versus concrete goals: Personal striving level, physical illness, and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 292–300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Emmons, R. A., & King, L. A. (1988). Conflict among personal strivings: Immediate and long-term implications for psychological and physical well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1040–1048.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Ferguson, M. J., & Bargh, J. A. (2004). Liking is for doing: The effects of goal pursuit on automatic evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 557–572.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Shah, J. Y. (2008). How goal instrumentality shapes relationship evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 319–337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Freund, A. M. (2006). Differential motivational consequences of goal focus in younger and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 21, 240–252.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Freund, A. M., & Hennecke, M. (2012). Changing eating behaviour vs. losing weight: The role of goal focus for weight loss in overweight women. Psychology and Health, 7, 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Freund, A. M., Hennecke, M., & Riediger, M. (2010). Age-related differences in outcome and process goal focus. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 7, 198–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Gendolla, G. H., & Richter, M. (2010). Effort mobilization when the self is involved: Some lessons from the cardiovascular system. Review of General Psychology, 14, 212–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Goschke, T., & Kuhl, J. (1993). Representation of intentions: Persisting activation in memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19, 1211–1226.Google Scholar
  47. Heckhausen, J. (1997). Developmental regulation across adulthood: Primary and secondary control of age-related changes. Developmental Psychology, 33, 176–187.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Fleeson, W. (2001). Developmental regulation before and after a developmental deadline: The sample case of “biological clock” for childbearing. Psychology and Aging, 16, 400–413.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (1999). Culture, self-discrepancies, and self-satisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 915–925.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Herrmann, M., & Brandstätter, V. (2013). Overcoming action crises in personal goals – Longitudinal evidence on a mediating mechanism between action orientation and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 881–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hofer, J., & Chasiotis, A. (2003). Congruence of life goals and implicit motives as predictors of life satisfaction: Cross-cultural implications of a study of Zambian male adolescent. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 251–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hudson, N. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2014). Goals to change personality traits: Concurrent links between personality traits, daily behavior, and goals to change oneself. Journal of Research in Personality, 53, 68–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Impett, E. A., Gordon, A. M., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., Gable, S. L., & Keltner, D. (2010). Moving toward more perfect unions: Daily and long-term consequences of approach and avoidance goals in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 948.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Job, V., Oertig, D., Brandstätter, V., & Allemand, M. (2010). Discrepancies between implicit and explicit motivation and unhealthy eating behavior. Journal of Personality, 78, 1209–1238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Kazén, M., & Kuhl, J. (2011). Directional discrepancy between implicit and explicit power motives is related to well-being among managers. Motivation and Emotion, 35, 317–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Kehr, H. M. (2004). Implicit/explicit motive discrepancies and volitional depletion among managers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 315–327.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Klinger, E. (1977). Meaning and void: Inner experience and the incentives in people’s lives. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  61. Koletzko, S. H., & Herrmann, M., & Brandstätter, V. (2015). Unconflicted goal striving. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 140–156.Google Scholar
  62. Kruglanski, A. W., Shah, J. Y., Fishbach, A., Friedman, R., Chun, W. Y., & Sleeth-Keppler, D. (2002). A theory of goal systems. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 34, 331–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lee, T. W., Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1989). Goal setting theory and job performance. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Goal concepts in personality and social psychology (pp. 291–326). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  64. Little, B. R. (1983). Personal projects: A rationale and method for investigation. Environment and Behavior, 15, 273–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Little, B. R. (1989). Personal projects analysis: Trivial pursuits, magnificent obsessions, and the search for coherence. In D. M. Buss & N. Cantor (Eds.), Personality psychology: Recent trends and emerging directions (pp. 15–31). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lucas, R. E., Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1996). Discriminant validity of well-being measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 616–628.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Luhmann, M., & Hennecke, M. (2017). The motivational consequences of life satisfaction. Motivation Science, 3, 51–75.Google Scholar
  68. Mann, T., De Ridder, D. T. D., & Fujita, K. (2013). Self-regulation and health behavior: Social psychological approaches to goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 32, 487–498.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mauss, I. B., Tamir, M., Anderson, C. K., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion, 11, 807–815.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  71. McClelland, D. C. (1985). Human motivation. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.Google Scholar
  72. McClelland, D. C., Koestner, R., & Weinberger, J. (1989). How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ? Psychological Review, 96, 690–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. McGregor, H. A., & Elliot, A. J. (2002). Achievement goals as predictors of achievement-relevant processes prior to task engagement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 381–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., & Pribram, K. H. (1960). Plans and the structure of behavior. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Oertig, D., Schüler, J., Schnelle, J., Brandstätter, V., Roskes, M., & Elliot, A. J. (2013). Avoidance goal pursuit depletes self-regulatory resources. Journal of Personality, 81, 365–375.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Ogilvie, D. M., Rose, K. M., & Heppen, J. B. (2001). A comparison of personal project motives in three age groups. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Öhman, A., Flykt, A., & Esteves, F. (2001). Emotion drives attention: Detecting the snake in the grass. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 466–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Oishi, S., & Diener, E. (2001). Goals, culture, and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1674–1682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Pöhlmann, K., & Brunstein, J. C. (1997). GOALS: Ein Fragebogen zur Messung von Lebenszielen. Diagnostica, 43, 63–79.Google Scholar
  80. Powers, W. T. (1973). Behavior: The control of perception. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  81. Riediger, M., & Freund, A. M. (2004). Interference and facilitation among personal goals: Differential associations with subjective well-being and persistent goal pursuit. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1511–1523.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  82. Roskes, M., Elliot, A. J., & De Dreu, C. K. (2014). Why is avoidance motivation problematic, and what can be done about it? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 133–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Ryan, R. M., Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., & Deci, E. L. (1996). All goals are not created equal: An organismic perspective on the nature of goals and their regulation. In P. M. Gollwitzer & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of action: Linking cognition and motivation to behavior (pp. 7–26). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  84. Schüler, J., Job, V., Fröhlich, S. M., & Brandstätter, V. (2008). A high implicit affiliation motive does not always make you happy: A corresponding explicit motive and corresponding behavior are further needed. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 231–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Schultheiss, O. C. (2008). Implicit motives. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 603–633). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  86. Schultheiss, O. C., & Brunstein, J. C. (Eds.). (2010). Implicit motives. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Schultheiss, O. C., Jones, N. M., Davis, A. Q., & Kley, C. (2008). The role of implicit motivation in hot and cold goal pursuit: Effects on goal progress, goal rumination, and emotional well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 971–987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Beyond individualism-collectivism: New cultural dimensions of values. In U. Kim, H. C. Triandis, C. Kagtcibasi, S.-C. Choi, & G. Yoon (Eds.), Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications (pp. 85–122). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  89. Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 482–497.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Ryan, R. M., Chirkov, V., Kim, Y., Wu, C., et al. (2004). Self-concordance and subjective well-being in four cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 209–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Sheldon, K. M., & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self-concordance, goal-attainment and the pursuit of happiness: Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 152–165.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  92. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1998). Pursuing personal goals: Skills enable progress, but not all progress is beneficial. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 1319–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Sideridis, G. D. (2005). Goal orientation, academic achievement, and depression: Evidence in favor of a revised goal theory framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 366–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Straus, E. G. (1979). Memoir. In A. P. French (Ed.), Einstein: A centenary volume (pp. 31–32). London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  95. Urdan, T., & Midgley, C. (2001). Academic self-handicapping: What we know, what more there is to learn. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 115–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Vogt, J., De Houwer, J., Moors, A., Van Damme, S., & Crombez, G. (2010). The automatic orienting of attention to goal-relevant stimuli. Acta Psychologica, 134, 61–69.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  97. White, R. W. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 297–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  98. Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251–265.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  99. Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., & Miller, G. E. (2013). Goal adjustment capacities, subjective well-being, and physical health. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 847–860.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  100. Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., Miller, G. E., Schulz, R., & Carver, C. S. (2003). Adaptive self-regulation of unattainable goals: Goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1494–1508.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations