Goal Setting Theory

You could be building a deck, getting fit, writing your thesis, finishing school, owning a home, getting first place or doing any one of the million different goals a person can try to achieve. Whichever goal you set, getting there is one life’s most wonderful feelings. This is especially true for more challenging goals, scientific research has shown this to be true. For example in one study Edwin Locke and his colleagues found that “that in 90% of the studies, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals” (source). This goal setting is the first half of one the primary sources of secular hope: setting and achieving goals. In 2012 Edwin Locke defined Goal Setting Theory: and it has 5 parts:

  1. Clarity: Clear, measurable goals are easier to achieve. Setting a specific timeline is also a big help in setting achievable goals.
    1. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable. Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time Based.
      • Specific: Use the 5 W’s; What , Where When, Why and Who? Know exactly what the end result if your goal will be.
      • Measurable: Make sure you can somehow measure your goal in concrete terms. For example: pounds lost, distance ran, pages written, days without a cigarette and so on.
      • Agreed Upon: In teams make sure everyone is on the same page. For individual goals ask someone you trust if they think your goal meets SMART requirements.
      • Realistic: You must be both willing and able to achieve your goal.
      • Time Based: Your goal must be set to meet specific time requirements. For example losing 5 pounds every two weeks or  having one less cigarette everyday.

      There are at least a few versions of SMART goal setting and they all work great.

  2. Challenge: Make the goal challenging, but not too challenging.  A reasonable challenge to a goal increases the motivation to achieve it.
    1. Is the goal interesting or important to you?
    2. Setup incremental rewards.
    3. Research it to make sure it’s realistic.
  3. Commitment: Sticking to it. Putting a very deliberate effort into your goal. It also helps to share your goal and your progress with someone.
    1. This crucially involves self-discipline. Research shows temptation can be achieved using the following methods:
      1. Implementation intention: Be prepared to deal with setbacks so you don’t have to rely on willpower.
      2. Practice: Willpower and self-discipline grow and can be exercised and strengthened like a muscle. (mindtools)
  4. Feedback: Get someone or something that can offer advice on your progress. Changing a goal to something more realistic is better than giving up on it.
  5. Task Complexity: The more difficult the task the more you need make sure you are putting things in place to deal with possible setbacks.

Mindtools has a great article on it. In fact MindTools is a fantastic resource, it includes data bases of information on decision making, time management, stress management, creativity tools and related.

Some Goal Setting Tools:

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of setting or not setting a goal (cost-benefit analysis worksheet)

10 Software Tools at thebalance.com

Whatever goal you set careful planning will help you get there, deal with setbacks and bring some hope into your life.

 

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