Self-regulatory strategies of goal setting and goal striving are analyzed in three experiments. Experiment 1 uses fantasy realization theory (Oettingen, in: J. Brandstätter, R.M. Lerner (Eds.), Action and Self Development: Theory and Research through the Life Span, Sage Publications Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1999, pp. 315-342) to analyze the self-regulatory processes of turning free fantasies about a desired future into binding goals. School children 8-12 years of age who had to mentally elaborate a desired academic future as well as present reality standing in its way, formed stronger goal commitments than participants solely indulging in the desired future or merely dwelling on present reality (Experiment 1). Effective implementation of set goals is addressed in the second and third experiments (Gollwitzer, Am. Psychol. 54 (1999) 493-503). Adolescents who had to furnish a set educational goal with relevant implementation intentions (specifying where, when, and how they would start goal pursuit) were comparatively more successful in meeting the goal (Experiment 2). Linking anticipated situations with goal-directed behaviors (i.e., if-then plans) rather than the mere thinking about good opportunities to act makes implementation intentions facilitate action initiation (Experiment 3).
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