Adaptive Self-Regulation of Unattainable Goals: Goal Disengagement, Goal Reengagement, and Subjective Well-Being

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2003 Dec;29(12):1494-508. doi: 10.1177/0146167203256921.


Three studies examined associations between goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. In Study 1, 115 undergraduates reported on the extent to which they were able to abandon unattainable goals and reengage their efforts in alternative goals. Study 2 examined the importance of goal disengagement and goal reengagement in groups of young adults and older adults (N = 120). In Study 3, a sample of parents of children with cancer and parents of medically healthy children was examined (N = 45). The findings confirmed that goal disengagement and goal reengagement can be associated with ratings of high subjective well-being. In addition, the results showed that goal disengagement and goal reengagement can have interactive effects on subjective well-being. The importance of the findings for effective self-regulation and successful development are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspirations, Psychological*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Parents / psychology
  • Personality Development
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires