Striving for wellbeing: The different roles of hedonia and eudaimonia in goal pursuit and goal achievement

Kjærsti Thorsteinsen, Joar Vittersø


Goals are central to theories of happiness and previous research has shown that successful goal pursuit typically leads to a boost in wellbeing. Taking these ideas further, the current study adopts the distinction between hedonic wellbeing (HWB) and eudaimonic wellbeing (EWB) and suggests that it is the former that increases when goals are achieved. By contrast, EWB is hypothesized to have a causal effect on the initiating and upholding of goal pursuits. In a short-term, longitudinal intervention study, 185 participants (78.8% women): 69 students and 116 participants from a sample representative of the Norwegian population were asked to set a personal goal. Every night throughout the next week, participants received one out of three different mental exercises (i.e., mental contrasting, process simulation or positive fantasizing) to support active goal pursuit. A path model found that EWB, and not HWB, predicted subsequent goal effort directly (b = .33, p < .001) and goal achievement indirectly (fully mediated by goal effort; b = .14, p = .001). Further, the model showed that goal effort (b = .17, p < .001) and goal achievement (b = .13, p = .001) caused an increase in post-intervention measures of HWB but not in EWB. A multilevel linear growth model revealed elevated levels of HWB for all intervention groups after the goal pursuit week (b = .24, p < .001), while EWB in general did not change during the study period. However, EWB unexpectedly increased for those in the positive fantasizing condition. The present finding indicates that it is the eudaimonic part of wellbeing that ignites and sustains goal pursuit processes, at least when they take some effort. By contrast, HWB is less involved in goal pursuit initiatives and more related to the outcome phase. Results are discussed with reference to several wellbeing theories.


subjective wellbeing, eudaimonic wellbeing, hedonic wellbeing, goal pursuit, goal achievement, effort

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