Week Three Goal Selection PSY/220 Use the info from the ebook included Chapter 7


Goal Selection

Using the information presented in Ch. 7, explain the matching hypothesis. Give an example of a well-matched and a poorly-matched goal that you have pursued in your own life. Discuss the relationship between goal selection and well-being. 


Post a 200- to 300-word response.





Goals Connect “Having” and “Doing”
What are Personal Goals?
Defining Personal Goals
Goals and Related Motivational Concepts
Measuring Personal Goals
Goal Organization
The Search for Universal Human Motives
Goals and the Fulfillment of Basic Human Needs
Focus on Research: An Empirical Method for Assessing Universal Needs
Goals Expressing Fundamental Values
Personal Goals Across Cultures
Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Goals
Physical versus Self-Transcendent Goals
The Personalization of Goals in Self-Concept
What Goals Contribute Most to Well-Being?
Goal Progress, Achievement, and Importance
The Matching Hypothesis
What Explains the Matching Hypothesis?
Personal Goals and Self-Realization
Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Goals
Autonomous versus Controlled Motivation
Focus on Research: Happiness and Success in College
Materialism and Its Discontents
Why Are Materialists Unhappy?
The Content of Materialistic Goals
The What and Why of Materialistic Goals
Compensation for Insecurity
Why Do People Adopt Materialistic Values?
Consumer Culture
Psychological Insecurity
Materialism and Death
Affluence and Materialism
Are We All Materialists?
Personal Goals as Windows
to Well-Being
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Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
126 Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being
Goals are central to an understanding of
human behavior because they energize
action and provide meaning, direction, and
purpose to life activities. Goals help explain the
“whys” of action—that is, what people are trying to
accomplish. Nearly all behavior has a purpose,
whether it’s washing dishes, having fun with
friends, looking for a job, or planning a vacation.
Goals explain and make sense of our actions by
providing reasons for their occurrence. Whatever
our behavior, if someone asks, “What are you
doing?” we typically respond by describing the purpose
of our actions in terms of a desired outcome
(i.e., achieving a goal). Goals also make our lives
coherent by establishing connections between specific
short-term and more general long-term purposes
and desires. For example, if you are a college
student reading this book for a class on positive
psychology, your specific purpose is to understand
the material in this chapter. This specific goal is
probably part of a larger goal of doing well in the
class; which is a sub-goal of meeting the requirements
to graduate from college; which relates to the
more general goal of getting a good job; which may
relate to an even more encompassing goal of having
a satisfying life. In short, our behavior during a
day, a week, a year, or a lifetime would not make
much sense without an understanding of the goals
we are striving to achieve.
Robert Emmons (2003) describes personal goals
as “the well-springs of a positive life” (p. 105). In
other words, the goals we pursue are intimately connected
to our happiness and well-being. The importance
of goals is clearly evident in cases where
people do not have reasonably clear, personally
meaningful, and attainable goals. Both goal conflict
and unrealistic goals have consistently been linked
to lower well-being and higher distress (Austin
& Vancouver, 1996; Cantor & Sanderson, 1999;
Emmons, 1999b; Karolyi, 1999; Lent, 2004). For
example, Emmons and King (1988) found that conflict
and ambivalence about personal goals were
related to higher levels of negative affect, depressed
mood, neuroticism, and physical illness. Even though
people spent a good deal of time ruminating about
their conflicting goals, this did not lead to action
aimed at resolution. Instead, conflict tended to immobilize
action and was associated with decreased subjective
well-being (SWB).
A further example of the relation between
goals and personal distress is shown in the link
between unrealistic standards for self-evaluation and
clinical depression. Perfectionists, for example, are at
higher risk for both depression and suicide because
of the self-blame, low self-worth, and chronic sense
of failure that result from their inability to meet unrealistic
expectations (Baumeister, 1990; Blatt, 1995;
Karolyi, 1999). These expectations may be selfimposed
through a belief that one must be flawless,
or socially imposed through a belief that significant
others have expectations and demands that are difficult
or impossible to achieve. The chronic inability to
satisfy individual standards for self-approval and to
meet the perceived expectations of others to gain
social approval can cause severe distress. Prolonged
distress may lead to what Baumeister (1990) called
the “escape from self”—namely, suicide.
On the positive side, attaining personally significant
goals, pursuing meaningful aspirations, and
involving oneself in valued activities all contribute
to enhanced happiness and well-being (Cantor &
Sanderson, 1999; Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999;
Emmons, 1999b; Emmons & King, 1988; Lent, 2004).
Personal goals play a pivotal role in individual wellbeing
because they are the basis for activities that
bring happiness and meaning to life. Engagement in
meaningful life tasks makes a significant and independent
contribution to well-being. For example, in
a study of over 600 older adults, involvement in
social and community activities was related to
higher levels of life satisfaction, even after controlling
for personal resources such as health, social
support, congeniality, and prior levels of satisfaction
(Harlow & Cantor, 1996). In other words, participation
in social activities increased well-being above
and beyond the effects of personal resources.
In addition to their independent contribution, goals
may also determine the extent to which personal
resources influence well-being. Cantor and
Sanderson (1999) note that goals help connect the
“having” side to the “doing” side of life (see also
Cantor, 1990). This traditional distinction (first made
by personality theorist Gordon Allport in 1937) captures
the importance of “having” personal resources
such as social skills, an optimistic attitude, and supportive
friends, as well as the importance of “doing,”
in the form of developing meaningful goals and
pursuing personally significant life activities. That is,
ISBN 1-256-51557-4
Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being 127
both resources (material and personal) and commitment
to goals have an important connection to wellbeing.
This connection is exemplified in a study of
resources and personal strivings among college students
(Diener & Fujita, 1995).
These researchers found that the effect of
resources on well-being depended on their congruence
with personal goals. Resources measured in the
study included skills and abilities (like intelligence
and social skills), personal traits (being energetic and
outgoing), social support (close ties with family members
and friends), and material resources (money and
possessions). Goals were assessed through students’
descriptions of 15 personal strivings (defined as “the
things they were typically trying to do in their everyday
behavior”) (Diener & Fujita, p. 929). Students
rated the relevance of each resource to each personal
striving, and also provided ratings on measures of
global SWB and experience-sampling measures of
daily mood. The critical factor determining the effects
of resources on SWB was the degree of congruence
between resources and personal strivings. Having
resources that facilitated achieving personal goals
was related to higher SWB, while a lack of goalrelated
resources was associated with relatively lower
levels of well-being. That is, it did not matter how
many resources a student had. What mattered was
whether those resources supported the goals they
were trying to accomplish.
Diener and Fujita describe two case studies
to make this goal–resource relationship concrete.
One young woman in the study had strong personal
resources in the area of intelligence and
self-discipline for work. However, she rated these
resources as largely unrelated to her goals. She perceived
self-confidence and support from family
members and friends as much more relevant.
Unfortunately, she was not strong in these areas. In
short, her personal resources did not match and
support her personal goals. Her level of well-being
was extremely low—three standard deviations
below the mean for students in the study. A second
woman in the study had strong resources in the area
of support from friends and family members, and
rated these resources as highly relevant to her goals.
She was low in athleticism and money, but perceived
these resources as unrelated to her goals.
The good alignment of resources and goals for this
young woman was associated with a very high level
of well-being. Her level of SWB was one standard
deviation above the sample mean.
The recent surge of interest in goal-related
concepts within psychology is, in large measure, a
result of their potential to explain how “having” and
“doing” co-determine life outcomes and therefore
well-being. As soon as we ask why “having” a particular
personal resource or life advantage leads to
certain behaviors or outcomes, we move from the
“having” to the “doing.” Because goals are intimately
involved in the “doing,” they help clarify the effects
of “having.” For example, an optimistic attitude
toward life has consistently been documented to be
related to higher levels of well-being. If we ask why
optimists are happier than pessimists, the answer
might seem obvious. An optimist sees the proverbial
glass as being half full, while the pessimist sees the
glass as being half empty. What else do we need to
know? Yet, if you consider that optimists have happier
marriages, are better workers, and enjoy better
health, then you begin to think about what optimists
do that pessimists do not do (Chang, 2002a). Much
of the answer concerns differences in goals, planning,
and perseverance in the face of difficulties.
In this chapter, we address a number of questions
concerning why personal goals are important
to well-being, happiness, and a meaningful life.
What are goals and how are they measured? What
needs and purposes do goals fulfill? How are people’s
multiple goals organized and structured? In
terms of their impact on well-being and happiness,
does it matter what goals people strive to achieve or
why they strive to achieve them? For positive psychologists,
finding answers to these questions provides
a revealing look at what people are trying to
accomplish in their lives, and that, in turn, can be
evaluated in terms its impact on well-being. For a
student of positive psychology, goal research and
theory offer a way to think about your own personal
goals in terms of their potential contribution to your
individual happiness.
Defining Personal Goals
In their review of goal constructs in psychology,
Austin and Vancouver (1996, p. 338) define goals as
“. . . internal representations of desired states,
where states are broadly construed as outcomes,
events or processes.” Graduating from college,
meeting new friends, or losing weight would exemplify
goals as outcomes, while planning a wedding
ISBN 1-256-51557-4
Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
128 Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being
or having the family over for Thanksgiving would
be examples of goals as events. Goals as processes
might include activities that are enjoyable in their
own right, like reading, nature walks, spending
time with friends, or working over time to develop
particular skills or interests, such as woodworking,
musical talents, or athletic abilities. Desired states
may range from fulfillment of biological needs such
as hunger, to more complex and long-term desires
involved in developing a successful career, to “ultimate
concerns” (Emmons, 1999b) with transcendent
life meanings expressed through religious and
spiritual pursuits.
Karolyi’s (1999) review of the goal literature
notes that goals may be internally represented in a
variety of ways. People may have a specific image
of a desired state. For example, many people who
live in the upper Midwest, like your textbook
authors, start imagining a warm Florida beach in
mid-February, after the cold and snow begin to get
old. These and other images energize travel plans
for many Midwestern university students, who
head for Florida during spring break. Personal
memories, stories, and if/then scenarios that people
use to think about the past, present, and future
may also represent goals. A pleasurable or painful
memory of a past event may create plans to repeat
(or avoid repeating) certain actions and outcomes.
Goals in the form of achievements, aspirations, and
fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams are a significant
part of an individual’s life story and personal identity
(McAdams, 1996). Many of our feelings about
the past are related to our success or lack of success
in accomplishing personally important goals,
and our future can be actively imagined through
the use of if/then and action/outcome possibilities.
For example: “If I get good grades, then I can get
into graduate school.” “If I just accept who I am
instead of always trying to please others, then I will
be happier.”
In summary, goals may be defined as desired
outcomes that people expend energy trying to
achieve. Goals contain both a cognitive and an
emotion-motivational component. Goals are cognitive
in the sense that they are mental representations of
desired future states. These representations include
beliefs, expectations, memories, and images. The
emotion-motivational components of goals include
the positive and negative feelings associated with
thinking about achieving or failing to achieve important
goals, evaluations of goal progress, and the
emotions following successful or unsuccessful goal
attainment. It is this emotion-motivational component
that energizes action in goal pursuits.
Goals and Related Motivational
Goals are part of a larger motivational framework in
which human behavior is energized and directed
toward the achievement of personally relevant outcomes.
The diverse array of motivational concepts
within psychology includes needs, motives, values,
traits, incentives, tasks, projects, concerns, desires,
wishes, fantasies, and dreams. These sources of
motivation run the gamut from “trivial pursuits” to
“magnificent obsessions” (Little, 1989), and from
consciously developed plans of action, to behaviors
expressing motives that lie outside conscious awareness.
In recent years, goals have emerged as a kind
of middle ground that helps to organize a variety of
motivational concepts. Echoing this sentiment,
Karolyi (1999) argued that goals make an independent
contribution to human behavior that cannot be
subsumed or explained away by other motivational
constructs. There is considerable controversy concerning
this point, especially regarding whether
goals are subsumed by, or distinct from personality
(see for example McAdams, 1995; Miller & Read,
1987; Read & Miller, 1998, 2002; Winter, John,
Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998). Most goal
researchers, however, would agree that goals are
connected to other sources of motivation, but they
are also distinct and separate psychological entities.
A case for the unique and distinct status of
goals, among other motivational concepts, does not
mean that needs, values, traits, and other motives
are less important than goals, or that goals are more
fundamental explanations for people’s actions. In
fact, an important topic for this chapter is to examine
how goals may express needs, values, and selfconcept.
As Karolyi (1999) argues, the increased
interest in goal-based perspectives within psychology
reflects the value of goals as an intermediate
level of analysis that connects, mediates, and translates
these more general sources of motivation into
conscious awareness and intentional action. Goals
help make sense of the diverse sources of human
motivation by focusing their effects on the more
particular reasons and purposes for action over
time. Personal goals offer more specific, “here-andnow”
insights into people’s ongoing journey
ISBN 1-256-51557-4
Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being 129
through life, than do many of the more general and
encompassing motivational perspectives. As Karolyi
puts it, “goals . . . provide a glimpse into each person’s
on-line ‘command center’ ” (1999, p. 269).
This online command center involves the individualized
translations of general needs and motives
into specific expressive forms that characterize
unique individuals. For example, the need for
belongingness, while clearly an important and fundamental
human motive, is expressed in a limitless
variety of behaviors and goals that vary widely
among individuals. People might fulfill this need by
having many casual friends, having a few close
friends, maintaining close ties to their parents and
siblings, or by committing themselves to their
marriages and their own children. These multiple
forms of potential expression are part of the reason
that belongingness is considered fundamental and
universal (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Self-defined
personal goals capture how a need shared by all
humans is translated or expressed in a particular
individual’s life. Personal goals help connect the
general to the particular.
The online command center also involves the
critical role of goals in self-regulating action over
time. (Self-regulated behavior is the topic for
Chapter 8.) Goals function as standards and reference
points for the evaluation of personal growth
and achievement. People’s ongoing evaluation of
how they are doing, what new actions need to be
taken, and how satisfied they are with life are, in
large measure, determined by comparisons of their
current status in relation to progress toward and
achievement of personally meaningful goals. Goals
help tie together feelings about our past, evaluations
of our present, and hopes for the future.
Measuring Personal Goals
Researchers differ in how they define and measure
personal goals; however, all conceptions attempt to
capture what people are trying to accomplish in their
lives in terms of personally desirable outcomes.
Goals have been described as personal concerns
(Klinger, 1977, 1998), personal projects (Little, 1989,
1993; Little, Salmela-Aro, & Phillips, 2007; McGregor
& Little, 1998; Palys & Little, 1983), personal strivings
(Emmons, 1986, 1999b, 2003), and life tasks (Cantor,
1990; Cantor & Sanderson, 1999; Cantor & Zirkel,
1990). Researchers typically give a brief description
and orienting example of the goal concept and then
ask people to describe their most important current
goals. For example, in personal project research, participants
are told, “We are interested in studying the
kinds of activities and concerns that people have in
their lives. We call these personal projects. All of
us have a number of personal projects at any
given time that we think about, plan for, carry out,
and sometimes (though not always) complete”
(McGregor & Little, 1998, p. 497). Examples of projects
might include “completing my English essay”
and “getting more outdoor exercise” (Little, 1989).
In his study of goals conceived as personal
strivings, Emmons (1999b) instructed research participants
to consider personal strivings as “the
things you are typically or characteristically trying to
do in your everyday behavior.” Participants were
told that these might be either positive objectives
they sought, or negative events or things they
wanted to avoid. They were also instructed to
describe recurring goals rather than one-time goals.
Examples of personal strivings include: “trying to
persuade others one is right” and “trying to help
others in need of help.”
In Cantor’s research (Cantor, 1990; Cantor &
Sanderson, 1999), life tasks were introduced to participants
with the following instructions. “One way
to think about goals is to think about ‘current life
tasks.’ For example, imagine a retired person. The
following three life tasks may emerge for the individual
as he or she faces this difficult time: (1) being
productive without a job; (2) shaping a satisfying
role with grown children and their families; and
(3) enjoying leisure time and activities. These specific
tasks constitute important goals since the individual’s
energies will be directed toward solving
them” (Zirkel & Cantor, 1990, p. 175). Participants in
the study were then asked to describe all their current
life tasks.
Once a list of self-generated goals is obtained,
researchers can ask participants to make a number of
additional ratings that get at goal importance, goal
conflict, commitment, and perceived attainability.
Goals can also be grouped into categories to allow
for comparisons among individuals. Depending on
the researchers’ interests and definition of the term
“goal,” goal categories might be focused on a particular
life stage, circumstance, or time-span, or on more
general goals that endure over time. For example,
Zirkel and Cantor (1990) asked college students to
sort their self-described tasks into six categories: academic
success, establishing future goals and plans,
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Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
130 Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being
making new friends, learning to be on their own
without their families, developing their own unique
personal identities, and balancing their time between
academics and socializing. In contrast, Emmons’
(1999b) research on personal strivings asked people
to describe goals at a higher and more general level.
His research showed that personal goals can be
coded into general categories such as achievement,
power, affiliation or relationships, personal growth
and health, independence, intimacy, and spirituality.
To sum up, personal goals open up a rich assortment
of interrelated factors for well-being researchers.
Goals capture the guiding purposes in people’s lives
that are central to happiness and satisfaction. As we
noted earlier, goals may be considered windows for
viewing major determinants of well-being.
Goal Organization
Most goal researchers agree that goals can be
arranged in a hierarchy with general, more abstract,
and “higher-order” goals at the top and more concrete,
specific, and “lower-order” goals at the bottom
(Austin & Vancouver, 1996). Goals higher in the
hierarchy are considered more important because
they control and give meaning to many lower-order
goals. Higher-order goals can easily be broken
down into the lower-order subgoals they control.
For example, the goal of earning a college degree
requires successful achievement of numerous subgoals
(e.g., meeting college entrance requirements,
signing up for classes, studying, fulfilling graduation
requirements, and paying tuition). In this example,
getting a degree is a higher-order and more important
goal because it organizes and gives purpose to
many specific subgoals. Higher-order goals may also
be more important because of the personal consequences
that may occur if they are not achieved.
The consequences of failing to obtain a college
degree are more significant than failing one class.
Clearly, if all or most subgoals are not achieved,
higher-order goals will be lost as well.
A variety of models have provided different
foundations for ranking goal-related motivations in
terms of their personal or universal importance (see
Austin & Vancouver, 1996; Carver & Scheier, 1998; and
Peterson & Seligman, 2004, for reviews). Nomothetic
models have sought to describe relatively universal
needs, values, and goals shared by most people,
while idiographic models have focused on the unique
ordering of goals by particular individuals. While
certain need-related and value-related goals appear to
have widespread support as being fundamental or
universal, there is much less agreement concerning
how many goals are necessary to describe the range
of human motivations and how they should be
arranged in a hierarchic order. Research relating to the
universal and individualized views of goal motivations
will be the next topics of discussion.
In Chapter 6, we considered the issue of whether
happiness has a universal meaning or varies widely
across cultures. This section examines the same
issue focused on sources of goal-related motivations.
If we examined the goals and motives of people
from many different cultures, what might we
find? Would there be some consensus in the needs
and goals considered important around the world?
Or, would we end up with an extensive list of motivations
too long to be useful? Following in the footsteps
of Maslow’s famous early work, recent studies
have revisited these questions and found some
intriguing answers.
Goals and the Fulfillment
of Basic Human Needs
Abraham Maslow’s classic conception of a hierarchy
of human needs (1943, 1954) was one of the earliest
examples of a motivational hierarchy that attempted
to specify universal sources of human motivation.
Originally describing five needs, the model later
expanded to eight needs regarded as universal
among humans. The expansion occurred as the
result of subdividing aspects of self-actualization
into separate needs. Each need can be thought of as
motivating a particular class of behaviors, the goal
of which is need fulfillment.
At the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy are basic
physiological needs necessary for survival (e.g.,
needs for food and water). At the second level are
needs for safety and security—specifically needs for
a safe, stable, and comforting environment in which
to live, and a coherent understanding of the world.
Belongingness needs, occupying the third rung of
the hierarchy, include people’s desires for love, intimacy,
and attachment to others through family,
friendship, and community relationships. Esteem
needs are fourth in the hierarchy. These include the
ISBN 1-256-51557-4
Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Chapter 7 • Personal Goals as Windows to Well-Being 131
need for positive self-regard and for approval,
respect, and positive regard from others. Next in line
are cognitive needs, including needs for knowledge,
self-understanding, and novelty. Aesthetic needs
seek fulfillment in an appreciation of beauty, nature,
form, and order. Second-to-the-top-of the hierarchy
are self-actualization needs for personal growth and
fulfillment. Self-actualizing individuals fully express
and realize their emotional and intellectual potentials
to become healthy and fully functioning. At the
very top of the hierarchy is the need for transcendence,
including religious and spiritual needs to find
an overarching purpose for life (Maslow, 1968).
Maslow argued that lower-order needs take
precedence over higher-order needs. Higher-order
needs are not important, of interest or motivating
unless lower-order needs are first satisfied. Maslow
viewed human development as the process of progressing
up the hierarchy. However, shifting life
circumstances can dictate which need commands
our attention at any given point in time. Depending
on circumstances, a person who was previously
motivated by higher-order needs may regress to a
lower-order need. For example, many college students
have experienced difficulty in finding the
motivation to study (cognitive need) after a failed
romantic relationship or the death of a loved one
(belongingness need).
Maslow’s legacy is still visible in positive psychology.
For example, common assumptions among
positive psychologists are that the more needs a
person has fulfilled, the healthier and happier that
person will be, and that unmet needs decrease wellbeing
(Veenhoven, 1995). The eudaimonic conception
of a healthy and fully functioning person shares
much common ground with Maslow’s description of
a self-actualized individual (Ryan & Deci, 2000;
Ryff & Keyes, 1995). However, Maslow’s hierarchy
has not received extensive research attention, and
both its universality and particular ordering of needs
have been challenged (Austin & Vancouver, 1996;
Peterson & Seligman, 2004). It is also easy to think
of examples to counter the idea that higher-order
needs are not motivating when lower-order needs
are unfulfilled. People die for causes they believe in,
and find solace in the love of others and in religion
when facing terminal illness. People also sacrifice
their own needs for the benefit of others, as any parent
can tell you. Yet the basic idea that some needs
are more compelling than others finds support in
the well-being literature. Recall that in very poor
nations, financial concerns are important to wellbeing,
in all likelihood because money is essential
to the fulfillment of basic survival needs (e.g.,
Biswas-Diener & Diener, 2001). In wealthy countries
where basic needs are fulfilled, financial factors are
not strongly predictive of happiness. This finding is
in line with the idea that higher-order needs (e.g.,
esteem and cognitive needs) become important only
after lower-order needs are met.
Focus on Research: An Empirical<


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