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Crystallization of Desire and Crystallization of Discontent in Narratives of Life-Changing Decisions


  • Jack J. Bauer, Northern Arizona University. Dan P. McAdams and April R. Sakaeda, The Foley Center for the Study of Lives, Northwestern University.

  • The authors would like to thank the Foley Family Foundation for its major support of this research, the Positive Psychology Summer Training Institute for its support, and Bob Emmons for his insights on an earlier draft of this paper. Portions of this paper were presented at the 2003 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Toronto.

concerning this article should be sent to Jack Bauer, Department of Psychology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5106. E-mail:


Abstract Two studies of adults examined personal narratives of life-changing decisions in relation to personality and well-being. Participants whose decision narratives emphasized a crystallization of desire (i.e., approaching a desired future) rather than a crystallization of discontent (i.e., escaping an undesired past; Baumeister, 1991, 1994) reported higher well-being, fewer avoidance strivings, lower Neuroticism (in Study 1 only), and better decision outcomes (in Study 2). However, neither strivings, traits, nor outcomes accounted for the relationship between crystallization of desire and well-being. The discussion considers the roles of life-changing decisions and personal narratives in research on personality, well-being, and positive personal development.