Personal Goals and Personal Agency

Linking Everyday Goals to Future Images of the Self
  • Laura A. King
Part of the The Springer Series in Social Clinical Psychology book series (SSSC)


Goal perspectives on personality emphasize the everydayness of human life: the daily “to do” lists that drive everyday behavior and experience (Pervin, 1989). In studies on personalized goals, individuals are asked to list the goals they are typically trying to accomplish in their everyday behaviors (e.g., Emmons, 1989). Daily goals can range in their significance from “to grow my nails” or “to eat less fat” at one end, to “to fight racism and misogyny wherever I see them” or “to bring God’s kingdom to Earth” at the other. Given the tendency of some of these goals to draw upon the most mundane aspects of life, we might well question the role of daily goals in the grander process of realizing one’s destiny. How can potentially “trivial pursuits” factor into our understanding of human agency? This chapter will address this issue in three ways. First, I will explore the ways research on daily goals can inform our understanding of the everyday self-as-agent by incorporating consideration of more distal life plans. The role of long-range life plans has been largely ignored, as research has focused instead on highly contextualized daily goals. In this chapter, I’ll highlight the ways that distal goals or life dreams can serve as a source of agency and meaning. In reviewing some recent research in this area, I will demonstrate the connections that exist between everyday goals and the enactment of a broader life plan. From this perspective, daily goals can be seen as the building blocks of destiny, the incremental steps toward fulfilling one’s life dreams.


Personal Goal Life Goal Goal Pursuit Life Plan Distal Goal 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. King
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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