Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Schulz, R. (2003). The importance of goal disengagement in adaptive self-regulation: When giving up is beneficial. Self and Identity, 2, 1-20.

This article develops the argument that goal disengagement forms an essential aspect of effective self-regulation. The argument derives from a consideration of processes inherent in the life-span development of the individual, as well as processes inherent in the moment-to-moment regulation of action. Evidence is reviewed to support the idea that goal disengagement can be beneficial to psychological well-being. In addition, the article addresses the nature of disengagement. It is argued that disengagement requires a person to withdraw not only effort but also commitment from unattainable goals, and is most adaptive if it leads to pursuing new meaningful goals. The paper also discusses the manner in which various aspects of the self might support or hinder the disengagement process. The paper closes by addressing the break point between goal engagement and disengagement and suggesting several directions for future research.  

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University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology