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Article

Self-concordant goals breed goal-optimism and thus well-being

Sheldon K. M., Gordeeva T. O., Сычев О. А., Osin E. N., Titova L.

Self-concordant goals are goals which represent a people’s enduring interests and self-defining values (Sheldon, 2002). People pursuing more self-concordant goals evidence higher subjective well-being, as shown in participants from both Western and non-Western cultures (Sheldon et al., 2004). In a different literature, attributional style research has found that tendencies to provide optimistic explanations of life events also predict well-being. We hypothesized that people pursuing self-concordant goals would make more optimistic attributions about goal-specific outcomes, and that this tendency would help explain the link between self-concordance and well-being. Structural equation and multiple group modelling of 253 American and 230 Russian university students found support for these hypotheses. Self-concordance primarily predicted optimism following positive outcomes (that they will recur), not following negative outcomes (that they will end), and also, the mediational pattern was slightly different in the Russian than in the American sample. The results suggest that when people choose life-goals that fit their interests and values, they derive resources including the ability to interpret positive goal-outcomes in an optimistic way. This helps to explain why pursuing such goals makes them happy.