Lay summary
Persistence in pursuing one's personal goals and disengagement from goals are core aspects of successful goal striving. Failure to disengage from unpromising goals puts an individual's psychological and physical well-being at risk. Nonetheless, disengagement from goals is still a comparatively unexplored issue in research on goal striving. The aim of the present research is to contribute to this research by scrutinizing a critical phase during goal striving when goal disengagement becomes an issue, which we call an action crisis - that is when the individual is confronted with repeated setbacks and starts asking him/herself whether to stop or to go on. Our research is related to theorizing on entrapment as advanced in social and organisational psychology as well as to research on adaptive mechanisms when confronted with worsening prospects for goal achievement in the realm of life-span psychology. We aim to analyse determinants and consequences of an action crisis in everyday life as well as in laboratory settings. More specifically, we will look at cognitive and affective consequences of an action crisis, and will especially clarify the role of goal related incentives in the regulation of goal directed behaviour when confronted with repeated setbacks. As a first step, we will conduct exploratory studies to gain insight into prevalence, course and temporal characteristics of an action crisis. Variables predictive of the intensity and course of an action crisis will be used in further correlative and experimental field and laboratory studies testing our hypotheses. With respect to determinants, we hypothesise that motive-goal incongruence is not the only but an especially important predictor of action crises. With respect to the consequences of action crises we predict that participants in an action crisis will deliberate more on goal-related incentives, and will report lower psychological and physical well-being than participants not experiencing an action crisis. Finally, we will test a cognitive intervention to change the subjective experience of an action crisis. Our project contributes to the literature on goal disengagement and self-regulation but is also intended to deliver insights of practical relevance in the realm of health psychology, clinical counselling, and vocational counselling.