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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01879

How Focusing on Superordinate Goals Motivates Broad, Long-Term Goal Pursuit: A Theoretical Perspective

  • 1Institute of Marketing and Management, Department of Consumer Behavior, Universität Bern, Switzerland

Goal-setting theory states that challenging, specific, and concrete goals (i.e., subordinate goals) are powerful motivators and boost performance in goal pursuit more than vague or abstract goals (i.e., superordinate goals). Goal-setting theory predominantly focuses on single, short-term goals and less on broad, long-term challenges. This review article extends goal-setting theory and argues that superordinate goals also fulfill a crucial role in motivating behavior, particularly when addressing broad, long-term challenges. The purpose of this article is to show theoretically that people pursue long-term goals more successfully when they focus on subordinate and superordinate goals simultaneously than when they focus on either subordinate or superordinate goals alone.

Keywords: Superordinate goal, Goal abstraction, Goal Pursuit, Long-term, goal hierarchy

Received: 05 Jun 2018; Accepted: 13 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Julia Vogt, University of Reading, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Frank Wieber, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
Tali Kleiman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel  

Copyright: © 2018 Höchli, Brügger and Messner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Bettina Höchli, Universität Bern, Institute of Marketing and Management, Department of Consumer Behavior, Bern, 3012, Bern, Switzerland, bettina.hoechli@imu.unibe.ch