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Pursuing Personal Goals: Skills Enable Progress, But Not All Progress Is Beneficial

Kennon M. Sheldon, Tim Kasser

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Although goal theorists have speculated about the causes and consequences of making progress at personal goals, little longitudinal research has examined these issues. In the current prospective study, participants with stronger social and self-regulatory skills made more progress in their goals over the course of a semester. In turn, goal progress predicted increases in psychological well-being, both in short-term (5-day) increments and across the whole semester; At both short- and long-term levels of analysis, however, the amount that well-being increased depended on the "organismic congruence" of participants' goals. That is, participants benefited most from goal attainment when the goals that they pursued were consistent with inherent psychological needs. We conclude that a fuller understanding of the relations between goals, performance, and psychological well-being requires recourse to both cybernetic and organismic theories of motivation.