Does self-compassion moderate the relationship between goal importance and anticipated emotion when failing to meet a goal?


Emotions have been shown to play an important role in goal pursuit (Carver & Scheier, 1990). Researchers (Neff et al., 2005) have demonstrated that self-compassion moderates emotional reactions after goal failure. However, little research has examined the role of self-compassion on anticipated emotions when failing to reach a goal. Adults (N = 130; Mage = 38.34, SD = 11.42 years) training for a marathon or half-marathon reported goals for the upcoming race, goal importance, anticipated positive and negative emotions when failing to reach the goal, and self-compassion. Separate moderation analyses were conducted using the SPSS macro PROCESS with anticipated emotions estimated from goal importance, self-compassion, and their product. Self-compassion was a significant moderator of the relationship between goal importance and the anticipation of negative emotions (R2adj. = .27; point estimate = -.1793; BC CI = -0.2782 to -0.0804). Simple slope tests revealed a positive association between goal importance and anticipated negative emotions, but goal importance was less strongly related to anticipated negative emotions for high levels of self-compassion (b = .25, p = .006) than for moderate (b = .43, p < .001) or lower levels (b = .61, p < .001). Goal importance (point estimate = -.2299; BC CI = -.3950 to -.0649) and self-compassion (point estimate = .2499; BC CI = .1067 to .3931) were significantly associated with anticipation of positive emotions when failing to reach the goal (R2 = .12, p = .001), with no significant interaction. Based on these findings, self-compassion may promote persistence towards important goals as individuals anticipate experiencing fewer negative emotions if they fail to reach their goal.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.