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Must We Suffer to Succeed?

When Anxiety Boosts Motivation and Performance

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1027/1614-0001/a000228

Abstract. Why do some people work best under pressure? In two studies, we examined whether and how people use anxiety to motivate themselves. As predicted, clarity of feelings moderated the relationship between trait anxiety and the tendency to use this emotion as a source of motivation (i.e., anxiety motivation). Furthermore, anxiety motivation mediated the relationship between trait anxiety and outcomes – including academic achievement (Study 1) as well as persistence and job satisfaction (Study 2). These findings suggest that individuals who are clear about their feelings are more likely to thrive on anxiety and eustress and possibly use these to achieve their goals and find satisfaction at work.

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