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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Personal goals guide behavior toward a desired outcome, motivate behavior over time and across situations, provide direction and meaning, and contribute to the acquisition of skills and subjective well-being. The adaptiveness of goals, however, might vary with dimensions such as their orientation toward the achievement of gains, maintenance of functioning, or the avoidance of losses. We argue that goal orientation is most adaptive when it corresponds to the availability of resources and the ubiquity of losses. In line with this argument, younger adults show a predominant orientation toward gains, whereas goal orientation shifts toward maintenance and avoidance of loss across adulthood. This shift in goal orientation seems adaptive both regarding subjective well-being and engagement in goal pursuit. A second goal dimension that has been largely overlooked in the literature is the cognitive representation of goal pursuit primarily in terms of its means (i.e., process focus) or its ends (i.e., outcome focus). This chapter also investigates the antecedents and consequences of goal focus. In particular, it highlights the importance of factors related to chronological age (i.e., the availability of resources, future time perspective, goal orientation, motivational phase) for the preference for and adaptiveness of adopting an outcome or process focus.

Keywords: adult development, goal orientation, goal focus, means, ends, resources, time perspective

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