Why More Self-control Makes you Happier. Examining the Relationship Between Self-control, Regulatory Focus, and Happiness

  • T. Cheung
  • F. Kroese
  • D. de Ridder


Background: People with high trait self-control (TSC) are not only more successful but also happier: how does regulatory focus (promotion vs. prevention) explain this relationship? Responding to this unexplored research question, the current study examines the relationship between self-control, regulatory focus, and happiness. Methods: 545 participants completed questionnaires on TSC, regulatory focus, and happiness. Findings: Mediation analyses using bootstrapping revealed that TSC positively predicts happiness and significant mediation effects for both promotion and prevention focus were found. TSC was positively associated with promotion focus, which in turn was positively associated with happiness. Contrastingly, TSC was negatively associated with prevention focus, which in turn was negatively associated with happiness. Discussion: Greater TSC leads to happiness as regulatory focus mediates this relationship. People with higher TSC are happier possibly because they are more concerned with potential positive outcomes. Counterintuitive to the traditional conceptualization that TSC involves more vigilance in line with a prevention focus, novel findings in this study posit that more TSC leads to greater happiness through a lower prevention focus. Findings have relevant implications for topical scientific debates about the underlying mechanisms of self-control.
Oral presentations