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Aspirations and Well-Being: When Are High Aspirations Harmful?


Are high aspirations harmful or beneficial? The hedonic adaptation prevention model posits that lofty aspirations are detrimental to well-being (Lyubomirsky, 2011; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2012), yet other research suggests that happy people tend to have higher aspirations than their less happy peers (Jacobs Bao, 2012; Jacobs Bao, Boehm, & Lyubomirsky, 2013). The current study was designed to address the associations among height of aspirations, fulfillment of aspirations, and well-being. U.S. adults (N = 333) documented their well-being and aspirations over 12 weeks. Work and romantic relationship aspirations were reported each week, and fulfillment of those aspirations was assessed the following week. The height of the aspirations, as rated by objective coders, was not consistently related to well-being. However, higher aspirations were relatively less likely to be fulfilled, and lower fulfillment predicted lower well-being. Thus, high aspirations appear to be detrimental to well-being when those aspirations are not realized. The theoretical and applied implications of these findings are discussed.

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