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Self-regulation theory predicts that patient behavior is determined by the patient's assessment of his/her condition (illness presentation) and related health goals. Patients will adapt their behavior to achieve those goals. However, there are multiple levels of goals. In such cases, those lower-level goals (health goals) that are strongly correlated with higher-level goals (i.e. quality of life [QOL]) are more likely to drive patient behavior. Medication non-compliance is a health behavior that challenges healthcare practitioners. Thus, the primary aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between the lower-level goals for taking medication with higher-level goals. This paper also identifies patient-perceived barriers and facilitators toward achieving goals as they may relate to patients' illness representation.To identify lower- and higher-level goals associated with medication use for chronic conditions. To determine if there is a relationship between higher-level (global) goals and lower-level (health-related) goals. To identify patient-perceived facilitators and barriers to achieving those goals.This was a prospective, observational study using a mailed survey. The setting was a US Midwestern state-wide survey. Participants were patients living in the community with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or arthritis, and taking prescription medication for any one of those conditions. The main outcome measures were lower- and higher-level goals related to medication use. The survey asked the participants if they had achieved their goals and to identify factors that may pose as barriers or facilitators to achieving them. Pearson correlation was used to test the relationship between the lower- and higher-level goals at p < 0.05.Responses from 292 qualifying patients were obtained. A significant relationship between lower- and higher-level goals existed (p = 0.03). Preventing future health problems was the most important lower-level goal for almost half of the respondents. Approximately 43% of the respondents said ‘improving or maintaining quality of life’ was their most important higher-level goal. Elderly respondents (65 years or older) said that being able to carry out daily activities on their own was their most important higher-level goal. To achieve this goal, they identified ‘preventing future health problems’ as the associated lower-level goal. One-third of the respondents stated that they had not yet achieved their medication-related goals. Patients identified good communication with their physicians (35%), the effectiveness of the drug product (32%), and their ability to monitor their condition (20%) as important factors toward helping them achieve their goals. Medication costs (30%), drug adverse effects (25%), and the lack of drug effectiveness (22%) were factors that patients identified as barriers to achieving their goals.There is a significant and positive relationship between the lower- and higher-level goals. Healthcare providers can work with their patients to achieve their goals. Both good communication with the prescriber and the effectiveness of the drug product were identified as the most important facilitator by one-third of the respondents. Future research should study if relating the impact of good symptom control or the reduction of future health risks to QOL or longevity, as deemed relevant by the patient, influences medication adherence behavior.