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Goal Internalization and Persistence as a Function of Autonomous and Directive Forms of Goal Support


  • This research was supported by a grant to Richard Koestner from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Le Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Société et Culture (FQRSC-Quebec).


Two prospective studies examined the relations of autonomy support and directive support to goal internalization and goal persistence over a year. Study 1 examined the role of support and internalization in semester-long goals set by college students and whether the goals were reset in the following semester. Study 2 examined semester-long goals and long-term developmental goals. Study 1 showed that autonomy support was not only significantly associated with greater internalization and goal success in the fall semester, but it was also significantly associated with actually resetting and subsequently succeeding at goals that one had failed to reach. Study 2 showed that autonomy support was significantly associated with progress for short-term goals over the semester, whereas directive support was unrelated to progress. For long-term goals, autonomy support was significantly related to greater internalization of goals and to greater goal satisfaction, whereas directive support was significantly negatively related to these outcomes. These studies point to the beneficial effects of autonomy support on goal internalization and resilient persistence. The effects of directive support (null vs. negative) were moderated by the timeline of the goals.

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