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Not All Personal Goals Are Personal: Comparing Autonomous And Controlled Reasons For Goals As Predictors Of Effort And Attainment

Kennon M. Sheldon, Andrew J. Elliot

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Even when goals are self-generated, they may not feel truly "personal," that is, autonomous and self-integrated. In three studies (one concurrent and two prospective), we found that the autonomy of personal goals predicted goal attainment. In contrast, the strength of "controlled" motivation did not predict attainment. Studies 2 and 3 validated a mediational model in which autonomy led to attainment because it promoted sustained effort investment. In Study 3, the Goal Attainment Scaling methodology was used to provide a more objective measure of goal attainment, and additional analyses were performed to rule out expectancy, value, and expectancy x value explanations of the autonomy-to-attainment effects. Results are discussed in terms of contemporary models of volition and self-regulation.