Daily Goals, Life Goals, and Worst Fears: Means, Ends, and Subjective Well-Being

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Abstract

This study addressed the relations among personal strivings (daily goals) and future life goals and worst fears. Eighty undergraduate participants (62 women, 18 men) listed their daily goals, their ultimate life goals, and their worst fears, and completed questionnaire measures of subjective well-being. Daily goals were content-analyzed for relevance to attaining life goals or avoiding worst fears. Daily goals that were instrumental to life goals or that avoided worst fears were rated as more important but also more difficult by participants. Working on daily goals avoiding one's worst fears was negatively related to measures of subjective well-being, controlling for daily goal progress, difficulty, ambivalence, and importance. Working on daily goals that were instrumental to one's life goals only weakly predicted well-being. The avoidance of worst fears interacted with daily goal appraisals such that individuals who experienced little progress at daily goals that served to avoid their “worst case scenario” experienced the lowest levels of subjective well-being. In addition, progress at daily goals that were relevant to accomplishing one's life goals was significantly more strongly related to subjective well-being than progress at daily goals that were unrelated to one's life goals. Results indicate that daily goals are used to enact life goals and avoid worst fears and that these means–end relations have implications for well-being.

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