Goals are an important source of motivation. But little is known about why and how people set them. We address these questions in a model based on two stylized facts from psychology and behavioral economics: i) Goals serve as reference points for performance. ii) Present-biased preferences create self-control problems. We show how goals permit self-regulation, but also that they are painful self-disciplining devices. Greater self-control problems therefore lead to stronger self-regulation through goals only up to a certain point. For severely present-biased preferences, the required goal for self-regulation is too painful and the individual rather gives up.
Goals self-control motivation time inconsistency psychology