Implicit Theories About Willpower Predict Subjective Well-Being

J Pers. 2017 Apr;85(2):136-150. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12225. Epub 2015 Oct 29.


Lay theories about willpower-the belief that willpower is a limited versus nonlimited resource-affect self-control and goal striving in everyday life (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). Three studies examined whether willpower theories also relate to people's subjective well-being by shaping the progress they make toward their personal goals. A cross-sectional (Study 1) and two longitudinal studies (Studies 2 and 3) measured individuals' willpower theories and different indicators of subjective well-being. Additionally, Study 3 measured goal striving and personal goal progress. A limited theory about willpower was associated with lower subjective well-being in a sample of working adults (Study 1, N = 258). Further, a limited theory predicted lower levels of well-being at a time when students faced high self-regulatory demands (Study 2, N = 196). Study 3 (N = 157) replicated the finding that students with a limited theory experienced lower well-being in phases of high self-regulatory demands and found that personal goal progress mediated this relationship. Results suggest that the belief that willpower is based on a limited resource has negative implications not only for self-control but also for personal goal striving and subjective well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Self-Control*
  • Volition*
  • Young Adult