The Struggle is Real: Motivating Goal Pursuit by Normalizing Difficulty

63 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2022 Last revised: 29 Apr 2024

See all articles by Alexander Park

Alexander Park

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley

Marissa Sharif

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Date Written: June 9, 2022

Abstract

Consumers often use products, such as language learning apps or fitness trackers, to aid them in their goal pursuits. In long-term goal pursuit, setbacks and struggles are inevitable and may lead consumers to disengage from the goal and discontinue the use of goal-relevant products. How can marketers help struggling consumers re-engage with their goals? Across a field study and four preregistered experiments (N = 6,163), we find that when consumers struggle to achieve a goal, setting a norm that goal pursuit is often difficult improves motivation and leads to a greater likelihood of re-engaging with goal-relevant products. We further demonstrate that this increase in motivation is driven by perceived self-attainability – when consumers learn that many people find a goal difficult to achieve, they attribute their struggles to the goal pursuit process rather than their lack of ability, which increases their interest in goal re-engagement.

Keywords: goal pursuit, failure, motivation, norms, goal re-engagement

Suggested Citation

Park, Alexander and Gershon, Rachel and Sharif, Marissa, The Struggle is Real: Motivating Goal Pursuit by Normalizing Difficulty (June 9, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4132744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4132744

Alexander Park (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business ( email )

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Marissa Sharif

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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