July 2015: How Happy Relationships Help With Goal Achievement

Couple of scubadivers looking at camera in water holding hands as if flying

When I refer to balance, I don’t mean that every area of life is equally balanced. That is not realistic. If we are pursuing a specific goal, it is a given that there will be an increased emphasis on the particular area that is the goal, which naturally leaves a decrease in focus on one or more other areas. But balance is still important.

For example, one of the elements that is of upmost importance to me is a person’s support system. If I am working with someone who is having challenges in their relationships, then the relationships need to get tended to first and foremost. It is simply more important to cultivate meaningful relationships than it ever will be to get in great shape. I never really had a rhyme or reason to this philosophy, other than it just seems like common sense to me.

That is, until Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons generated some clarity for me with their study on relationship satisfacation as it relates to the ability to self-regulate and achieve goals. They argues for the importance of happy relationships as it relates to goal pursuit. The hypothesis of the article is that people who are in happy relationships have a much easier time pursuing their goals as well as practicing self-regulation. Naturally, I had to investigate.

Relationship Satisfaction and Goal Achievement

Being the self-regulation advocate that I am, I had to write about this brand new study done by Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) which argues that people high on state relationship satisfaction have an easier time with self-regulation and ultimately, goal achievement. I want to discuss their “four parameters of effective self-regulation.”

Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) base their hypothesis on relationship satisfaction being correlated to self-regulation using the following four factors.

The first self-regulatory factor is perceived control. That is the extent to which a person feels the ability to achieve their goals are within their control. This includes feeling like they have the ability to take the proper action as well as have a stable environment that allows them to focus on these goals. Hofmann et al., (2015) claim that the way relationship contentment affects perceived control is through the emotional stability that satisfying relationships provide. This is not exclusive to romantic partner relationships.

The second self-regulatory factor is goal focus. This refers to a person’s ability to maintain focus on a desired goal. Hofmann et al., (2015) argue that goals are held in working memory, and unsatisfying relationships take up cognitive load that distracts a person from their goals.

The third self-regulatory factor is perceived partner support. This refers to the extent to which a person feels that they are being supported in their endeavors. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that social support offers us an increase in motivation and helps us to reach our goals. When we feel like someone has our back and is cheerleading for us, it helps increase motivation.

The fourth self-regulatory factor is positive affect. Happy relationships put us in a good mood right? Well, for the most part, yes this is true. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that the better mood we are in, the more positive behaviors we will engage in that are related to our goals. They also state that since we are not bombarded with intrusive thoughts and concerns about our relationships, we have extra energy to focus on our goals.

Hoffman et al., (2015) did find a correlation between positive close relationships and one’s ability to self-regulate in order to achieve their goals. I will leave the reference if you are interested in the details of the study.

For the purpose of my newsletter, I simply wanted to flush out the ideas of the importance of positive communication with those that are important in our lives. It is an important consideration simply to enhance interpersonal communication, but it turns out having positive relationships, also benefits us with goal achievement. Now go hug someone you love.

Reference: Hofmann, W., Finkel, E.J., & Fitzsimons, G.M. (2015). Close relationships and self-regulation: How relationship satisfaction facilitates momentary goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1-19.


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