A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

A model of future-oriented motivation and self-regulation

Published: March, 2004

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Miller, R. B. & Brickman, S. J.


This article presents a theoretically grounded model of motivation and self-regulation that places personally valued future goals at its core. We attempt to integrate two lines of theorizing and research that have been relatively independent of one another: the social–cognitive perspective on self-regulation (e.g., Bandura, A., 1986) and theories of more future-oriented self-regulation (e.g., Markus, H., and Nurius, P., Am. Psychol. 41: 954–969, 1986; 1986; Nutin, J., Motivation, Planning, and Action: A Relational Theory of Behavior Dynamics, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1984; Raynor, J. O., Motivation and Achievement, Winston, & Sons, New York, Chap. 7, pp. 121–154, 1974). We argue that personally valued future goals influence proximal self-regulation through their impact in the development of proximal subgoals leading to future goal attainment. The development of a system of proximal subgoals increases the likelihood that proximal tasks are perceived as instrumental to attaining future goals. Proximal tasks that are perceived as instrumental to reaching personally valued future goals have greater overall incentive value and meaning than proximal tasks lacking this instrumental relationship, and their impact on task engagement is correspondingly greater. Research supporting these claims is reviewed and the implications of this model of future-oriented self-regulation for research and intervention are discussed.

JTF grant funded: No