Book Chapter
Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G.

Planning promotes goal striving

Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2011). Planning promotes goal striving. In K. D. Vohs & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. (2nd Ed., pp. 162-185.). New York, London: The Guilford Press.


Determining the factors that promote successful goal striving is one of the fundamental questions studied by self- regulation and motivation researchers (Bargh, Gollwitzer, & Oettingen, 2010; Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996; Oettingen & Gollwitzer, 2001). A number of theories, and supporting empirical data, suggest that the type of goal chosen and the commitment to that goal are important determinants in whether an individual carries out the behaviors necessary for goal attainment (e.g., Ajzen, 1985; Bandura, 1997; Carver & Scheier, 1998; Elliot, 2008; Locke & Latham, 2006; Molden & Dweck, 2006; Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter, 2001). Within these models, choosing or accepting a goal or standard is the central act of will in the pursuit of goals. We agree with this contention but argue in this chapter that further acts of will should facilitate goal attainment, in particular, when goal striving is confronted with implemental problems (e.g., difficulties getting started because of failure to use opportunities to do so; sticking to ongoing goal striving in the face of distractions, temptations, and competing goals). Such acts of will can take the form of making plans that specify when, where, and how an instrumental goal- directed response is to be enacted. More specifically, the person may take control over (i.e., self- regulate) goal striving by making if–then plans (i.e., form implementation intentions) that specify an anticipated critical situation and link it to an instrumental goal- directed response.