chapter  20
16 Pages

Motives, Goals, and Well-Being Throughout the Lifespan

WithJutta Heckhausen, Joseph S. Kay

Motivation, goals and their pursuits, and subjective well-being all influence one another directly and indirectly throughout the lifespan. Perceptions of control are critical for well-being, but even more so is the fit between the type of control strategy used and the opportunities available. Older adults are better able to use motivational strategies to maintain control, preserving their well-being despite increasingly limited control opportunities. Additionally, short-term changes in affective components of well-being can serve as signals of the opportunities available and the progress being made toward a goal, with positive affect resulting from goal success and leading to broader attentional focus and switching to other tasks, and negative affect resulting from failure or difficulties leading to a narrowed focus and greater persistence. Finally, goal content matters. Goal pursuits and successes lead to improvements in well-being only when congruent with implicit, unconscious motives. In addition, older adults focus more on goals that produce emotional benefits, and younger adults focus more on goals that produce knowledge and long-term benefits.