Academic journal article Education Research International

Examining Relationships between Academic and Social Achievement Goals and Routes to Happiness

Academic journal article Education Research International

Examining Relationships between Academic and Social Achievement Goals and Routes to Happiness

Article excerpt

Christopher O. Walker 1 and Tina D. Winn 2 and Rachel M. Lutjens 1

Recommended by Eddie Denessen

1, Department of Psychology, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, 1727 W. Alabama Chickasha, OK 73717, USA 2, Department of Psychology and Family Studies, Oklahoma Christian University, P.O. Box 11000, Oklahoma City, OK 73136, USA

Received 27 March 2012; Revised 9 July 2012; Accepted 18 July 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

Attempts to understand and achieve a state of happiness are not new. Over two-thousand years ago Aristotle theorized that happiness is the primary pursuit of mankind and that all other forms of attainment (i.e., an increase in personal health and wealth) are subordinate in the service of maintaining or increasing one's current state of happiness. More recently, Csikszentmihalyi [1] described happiness as an essential element in experiencing "flow" which he defined as a state of "optimal experience" derived from experiencing and exhibiting "mastery" over a challenging yet meaningful and personally relevant task (p. 3-4). Csikszentmihalyi [1] further argued that a state of happiness "is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended" and will arise as one "learn [s] to control inner experience" through the meaningful and reflective interpretation of external realities (pg. 2). This line of argument clearly suggests that as a state of happiness can be gained it can also be lost if left "undefended." Similarly, [2, 3] concluded that happiness has an essential cognitive foundation and stated "happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy" (pg. 162). Further, Seligman [4] has argued that happiness is one of five key contributors to well-being along with engagement (analogous to Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow), meaning, accomplishment, and positive interpersonal relations and that factors such as hope [5] and optimism (i.e., one's ability and willingness to adopt an optimistic appraisal of a given situation) directly contribute to and support one's current state of happiness.

Ultimately, we argue that happiness is a malleable psychological construct that directly contributes to an individual's broader estimate of their own well-being. We further argue that happiness is dependent upon one's cognitive state and therefore can be positively altered depending upon one's ability and/or willingness to adopt a more optimistic explanatory style when confronted by conditions within a variety of external contexts [4, 6, 7]. Regarding malleability, researchers have noted successful interventions within a variety of contexts including but not limited to education [8], mental health [9], and increasing psychological resilience in the USA Army [10].

Additional research within the educational and positive psychology subfields has consistently indicated that one's level and/or type of happiness and the nature of one's pursuit of goals are linked, both directly and indirectly, to academically and socially related outcomes [11-15]. Regarding goals, research has consistently indicated that the nature of the goals we set in either academic or social contexts has the capacity to predict and explain a host of attitudes and behaviors that will likely impact our lives in some concrete and tangible way [16-18]. For example, recent findings suggest that one's adopted goal orientation, or the goal orientation of one's teacher, can have a direct relationship with the development of one's numeracy skills [18, 19], one's readiness to seek out social comparison information [20], and "achievement emotions" including but not limited to enjoyment, boredom, anger, hope, pride, and shame [21]. …

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