Research on goal choice has been limited by restricted explanatory categories unidimensional quantitative ratings of goal importance and limited samples in academic settings. Open-ended inquiry can yield a much richer picture of goal choices. This grounded theory interview study with 11 college graduates assessed goal importance three times over four months. The grounded theory of goal importance had four coding levels: three theoretical categories (hedonic motives eudaimonic motives and structural motives) seven thematic codes 19 axial codes and 56 basic codes. Very diverse reasons were reported for goal choice reflecting aspects of many goal pursuit theories. Respondents gave multiple reasons for pursuing each goal often in multiple theoretical categories. Basic codes provided the most explanatory information with higher level categories offering more descriptive information. Results suggest that only complex theories of goal pursuit can encompass the range of goal motives and that qualitative inquiries complement quantitative research by ensuring this breadth.
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