The Motivational Consequences of Life Satisfaction

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Previous research indicates that high levels of life satisfaction are associated with positive outcomes in various life domains, but the mechanisms underlying these associations are largely unclear. In this article, we argue that life satisfaction is associated with motivational consequences that may explain its positive effects on major life outcomes. This hypothesis was tested in 7 correlational and experimental studies that examined desire for change and goal orientation as motivational and volitional outcomes. Across studies, people low in life satisfaction reported a greater desire to change their life circumstances as well as a greater orientation toward change and a weaker orientation toward stability than people high in life satisfaction, statistically controlling for affect. These findings contribute to life-satisfaction research by providing initial evidence on the motivational consequences of life satisfaction and adding to the growing literature on the functional distinction between life satisfaction and affect. Furthermore, these findings contribute to motivation science by showing that motivational processes do not just arise in the presence, but also in the absence of a perceived negative discrepancy between one’s desired and one’s actual state. Together, these studies suggest that life satisfaction is an important factor in motivating people to influence their life circumstances through the adoption of personal goals.

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