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human motivation article notes

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PSYC 471
Richard Koestner

Motivation Article #4: Reaching One’s Personal Goals Abstract Autonomous goal motivation can lead directly to greater goal progress by allowing individuals to exert more effort, experience less conflict, and feel a greater sense of readiness to change their behaviour. It also allows individuals to make better use of implementation plans specifying how, when, and where they will enact goal- directed behaviours. Support from other people can play a vital role in facilitating goal pursuits. Successful goal progress results in enhanced positive affect and reduced negative affect, particularly if the goal pursuits involved satisfaction of intrinsic psychological needs. New Year resolutions reflect individuals’ attempt to motivate themselves to achieve an important personal goal. Despite the importance of their goals and their commitment to achieving them, most individuals who make a New Year’s resolution fail to achieve them. People who fail at their resolutions report that the failure results in negative affect and lowered self-esteem. Polivy and Herman argued that the cycle of failure and renewed effort was maladaptive and rooted in unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease and consequences of self-change attempts. Polivy and Herman’s false-hope syndrome may be uniquely relevant to weight loss attempts, which appear to be particularly unresponsive to long-term sustained change. Other types of goals may be more amenable to self-change efforts. Although it is true that individuals typically must make six or more attempts before they succeed at their New Year’s resolution, the majority who fail at their resolution report that they learned something valuable that can help them in a future attempt. Why Individuals Fail to Reach their Personal Goals There are 3 major reasons why people typically fail in their goal pursuits: 1) They lack clear, specific goals 2) They fail to monitor their progress toward the goal 3) They do not possess sufficient self-regulatory strength to maintain goal pursuit in the face of obstacles and distractions Self-regulatory strength refers to a person’s capacity to exercise self-control so as to alter their typical way of responding. Self-regulatory strength is a limited resource that can be quickly depleted. Goal setters need to find a way to pursue their goals in a manner that minimizes the demand on self-control resources. Overcoming our Limitations in Self-Regulatory Strength One way in which self-regulatory strength can be preserved is by automating goal pursuit. Carefully formulated implementation plans can transform conscious goals into automatic habits that allow individual to overcome typical resource barriers. Implementation plans are mental planning exercises in which goal setters specify when and where they will initiate their goal pursuit and how they will ensure their persistence in the face of distractions and obstacles. The process by which people select and frame their goals may also influence whether they will be able to call forth the self-regulatory strength needed to maintain them. The two best prospective predictors of resolution success were participants’ readiness and self-efficacy toward the goal. Readiness refers to the extent to which individuals felt they were well prepared to pursue their goal at this particular time. Self-efficacy refers to a sense of confidence in one’s ability to perform specific actions that lead to desired outcomes. Self-efficacy is associated with important motivational processes such as enhanced effort and commitment, selection of more challenging goals, keener focus on goal pursuit, and perseverance in the face of difficulties, all of which facilitate goal attainment. The Role of Autonomy in Goal Pursuit Common problems: 1) Setting ambiguous goals 2) Setting too many goals 3) Goals that are in conflict with each other 4) Proclaiming low feelings of self-efficacy 5) Stating goals in terms of avoidance rather than approach The way in which individuals organize and frame their goal however is not sufficient to ensure their success. A person can have many different reasons for setting a goal, and these reasons vary in the extent to which they represent autonomy. The issue of autonomy concerns whether a goal reflects an individual’s interests and personal values versus whether it is adopted because of social pressures or expectations of what an individual “should do.” Whether a goal is autonomous may well influence how goal pursuit is regulated and whether it will meet with success. Goals that are not endorsed by the self are likely to generate intrapersonal conflict, whereas autonomous goals allow individuals to draw on volitional resources such as the capacity to exert sustained effort. Autonomous motivation has been associated with active information seeking, resistance to persuasion, consistent behaviour, emotional congruence regarding one’s behaviours, positive emotions, effective interpersonal functioning, resilience in face of setbacks and better learning. Autonomous goals were defined as those that reflected personal interests and values rather than something one feels compelled to do by external or internal pressures. Studies found that autonomous goals were significantly associated with greater goal progress over time than non-autonomous goals. Feelings of goal self-efficacy could be improved by using techniques recommended by Bandura. Specifically, participants who did a brief written exercise in which they a) listed previous mastery experiences for a similar goal, and b) listed examples of people who were similar to them who succeeded at a similar goal, showed an increase in subsequent goal efficacy. The size of the relation between goal autonomy and goal progress was found to be . 20, which, although statistically significant, is small. As well, research on autonomy and goals is almost entirely correlational in nature, thus leaving open the possibility that some unmeasured third variable is accounting for both the level of autonomy and the goal progress. A study found that a brief self-reflection exercise increased the level of autonomy for goals, and that goal autonomy was associated with goal progress. Indirect Effects of Autonomy on Goal Progress When people have autonomous goals, they are better prepared to use imple
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