Goal progress has been consistently linked to subjective well-being and happiness (Klug & Maier, 2015), but do the individual actions of doing something helpful for personal goals have similar effects? The current study investigates how goal alignment-the perception that you are engaging in activities that are aligned with personal goals-might be associated with state happiness. We hypothesized that people will feel happier when the activities they are performing are aligned with their goals. The study also explored the roles of goal progress and competence in this relation. Data on goal-activity alignment, goal progress, competence, and state happiness were collected in an experience-sampling study with undergraduate students (N = 159) and a survey study with Amazon MTurk workers (N = 252). Using multilevel analyses and regression analyses, results indicated that participants were happier when they were pursuing activities that were more closely aligned with their goals than when pursuing less goal-aligned activities; the results remained significant after accounting for goal progress. Participants who were more goal aligned on average reported greater state happiness; this effect was nonsignificant when goal progress was accounted for. Results suggest that goal alignment has a significant and unique effect on state happiness and that goal pursuit has very immediate benefits that begin as soon as individuals start doing actions helpful for their personal goals.

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Motivation Science
Department of Psychology

Wang, J.F. (Jing Fei), & Milyavskaya, M. (2020). Simple pleasures: How goal-aligned behaviors relate to state happiness. Motivation Science, 6(2), 156–163. doi:10.1037/mot0000143