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Stuck in Limbo: Motivational Antecedents and Consequences of Experiencing Action Crises in Personal Goal Pursuit

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Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Action crises describe the intrapsychic conflicts individuals experience when they feel torn between further goal pursuit and goal disengagement. The present investigation introduces autonomous and controlled motivation as independent predictors of action crisis severity, beyond known personality‐level predictors (action orientation) and novel personality‐level predictors (Neuroticism and Conscientiousness). Method Using a multi‐wave prospective longitudinal design and multilevel modeling (MLM), we followed students pursuing three personal goals across an academic semester (N = 425 undergraduates; 76% female; 57% Caucasian; Mage = 20.2, SD = 2.3). In two follow‐up surveys, participants reported on the severity of their action crises, goal progress, and symptoms of depression. Results Results suggest that autonomous motivation shields individuals from experiencing action crises, whereas controlled motivation represents a risk factor for developing action crises beyond personality‐level predictors. Furthermore, MLM revealed that autonomous motivation is a significant predictor of action crisis severity at both the within‐ and between‐person levels of analysis. Action crises mediate both the relationship between autonomous motivation and goal progress, and the relationship between controlled motivation and symptoms of depression. Conclusions The implications of these findings for the prevention of action crises and motivation research are discussed.