Willful Wanting: Self-Control and Autonomous Motivation in the Lab, Home, School, and Office

Juarez, Lindsay, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Converse, Benjamin, Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy, University of Virginia

Most people want to lead a “purpose-driven life.” They want to pursue engaging projects
that allow them to contribute to something larger than themselves. Indeed, motivation derived from a sense of truly valuing and/or enjoying one’s pursuits – as opposed to motivation born of external demands and other people’s expectations – is associated with progress, perseverance, success, and well-being. But what determines the content of a given motivation in a given situation? Many theoretical perspectives address “properties” or “contents” of goals as if they are somehow inherent to the goal. In contrast, the starting point of the current research is a more explicit acknowledgment than most other accounts that goal “content” is determined by the mind (i.e., is a construal). Based on this assumption, the current research examines self-regulation as one possible determinant of how “self-determined” one’s goal pursuit is. Specifically, using cross-sectional, experience-sampling, and laboratory-based paradigms, we find that self- regulatory processes – here, operationalized as trait self-control – are associated with the degree of autonomous motivation that a goal-pursuer experiences in everyday life. We also examine, in an exploratory fashion, how more self-determined moments might add up to a more satisfied life.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
self-control, self-determination theory, self-regulation, autonomous motivation
Issued Date: