Finding meaning in self-control: The effect of self-control on the perception of meaning in life

Olga Stavrova*, Tila Pronk, Michail D. Kokkoris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present research explored whether self-control is associated with the perception of meaning in life. A week-long daily diary study (Study 1) showed trait self-control (but not daily experiences of self-control failure) to be positively associated with a general sense of meaning in life and daily experiences of meaning. This association was robust against controlling for life satisfaction, positive and negative affect. Study 2 tested two potential mechanisms underlying the association between trait self-control and meaning in life: Successful goal progress and experience of structure in life. While self-control was positively associated with both, only the experience of structure predicted meaning: Self-control was positively related to the perception of one’s life as having a clear sense of structure and order, which in turn predicted a stronger perception of meaning. Study 3 replicated the mediation path via the experience of structure and showed it to be stronger for individuals high (vs. low) in the personal need for structure. The present findings add to the emerging literature on trait (and state) self-control and dispositional determinants of meaning in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-218
Number of pages18
JournalSelf and Identity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • daily diary
  • goal progress
  • meaning in life
  • Self-control
  • sense of structure in life


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