Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Entrepreneurship, PhD

Committee Chair

Garrett, Robert

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Maertz, Carl

Committee Member

Maertz, Carl

Committee Member

Fiet, James

Committee Member

Shepherd, Dean

Author's Keywords

Entrepreneurship; motivation; adversity; emotion; goals; affect


Motivated goal pursuit is a foundational concept in entrepreneurial venturing. Entrepreneurs set goals for their ventures, and their persistence in pursuing these goals ultimately impacts the success of their venture. Many of the explanations of motivation in goal pursuit have focused on the benefits of steady progress and positive emotions. However, entrepreneurs inevitably face adversity and setbacks which, in turn, beget negative emotions. It is yet unclear what role adversity and the ensuing negative emotions may have in motivating entrepreneurs. In order to extend our theoretical understanding of affect and adversity in entrepreneurial venturing, this dissertation draws on the existing literature on emotion, resilience, and self-regulation to develop hypotheses related to the effect of these constructs on the three behavioral outcomes of motivation: direction, intensity, and persistence of effort. This dissertation is divided into four chapters. The first provides an overview of the existing theoretical perspectives that have been used to explain how entrepreneurs maintain motivation in times of challenge. From this, chapter one derives one overarching research question, and two research sub-questions. Chapter two presents the empirical investigation of the first research sub-question and draws on regulatory focus theory to offer hypotheses related to the impact of baseline and situationally induced affect in motivated goal pursuit. The study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to measure aspiring entrepreneurs’ motivational response to negative feedback in goal pursuit in real-time. The third chapter comprises the empirical investigation of the second research sub-question, and seeks to elucidate how the positive and negative emotions associated with psychological resilience impact entrepreneurs’ motivated goal pursuit over time. The study tracks nascent entrepreneurs using a daily-diary methodology over the course of two weeks, measuring both their affective and motivational responses to a self-reported venturing challenge. The fourth and final chapter considers the results of both studies together, to offer a response to the overarching research question posed in chapter one. In all, this research demonstrates that negative emotions have an important role to play in responding to and overcoming adversity and suggests that they may function in tandem with positive emotions to spur entrepreneurs forward.