Research on self-regulation has largely focused on the idea of effortful self-control, which assumes that exerting willpower will lead to greater success. However, in recent years, research has challenged this perspective and instead proposes that effortless self-regulation is more adaptive for long-term goal pursuit. Taking into consideration the burgeoning literature on effortless self-regulation, here we propose that motivation—or the reasons why we pursue our goals—plays an integral role in this process. The objective of the present paper is to highlight how motivation can play a role in how self-regulation unfolds. Specifically, we propose that pursuing goals because you want-to (vs. have-to) is associated with better goal attainment as a function of experiencing less temptations and obstacles. While the reason why want-to motivation relates to experiencing fewer obstacles has yet to be thoroughly explored, here we propose some potential mechanisms drawing from recent research on self-regulation. We also provide recommendations for future research, highlighting the importance of considering motivation in the study of self-regulatory processes.
Social and Personality Psychology Compass
Department of Psychology

Werner, K.M. (Kaitlyn M.), & Milyavskaya, M. (2018). Motivation and self-regulation: The role of want-to motivation in the processes underlying self-regulation and self-control. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. doi:10.1111/spc3.12425