When Goals Conflict But People Prosper: The Case of Dispositional Optimism

J Res Pers. 2006 Oct;40(5):675-693. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2005.08.001.


Optimistic persistence in pursuing goals may have beneficial consequences such as protection against negative affect and greater likelihood of goal attainment, but persistence can also result in greater likelihood of goal conflict, which can have negative consequences. Two studies, one cross-sectional (N = 100) and one longitudinal (N = 77), found that optimism associated with higher goal conflict. However, objectively rated goal conflict did not significantly undermine adjustment, and when balance among goal value, expectancy, and conflict was considered, optimism associated with better balance. In turn, balance accounted for part of optimists' better goal progress over the course of a semester. Although goal conflict may have costs, these costs appear to be offset by accompanying benefits, particularly for optimists.