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Abstract

This article addresses how individuals can adjust to the experience of unattainable goals and protect their subjective well-being and physical health. We discuss theoretical aspects involved in the self-regulation of unattainable goals and point to the importance of general individual differences in goal disengagement and goal reengagement capacities. In addition, we review the extant literature, suggesting that goal disengagement capacities can reduce psychological distress and ameliorate patterns of biological dysregulation and physical health problems if individuals experience unattainable goals. Goal reengagement capacities, by contrast, are shown to be associated with positive indicators of subjective well-being (e.g., positive affect or purpose in life) but rarely predict psychological distress or physical health outcomes. We finally address several remaining issues that have become apparent in the extant literature and may deserve more attention in future research.