Understanding Goal Setting Theory

June 12, 2019

Perhaps the most popular proponents of the goal setting theory are philosophers E.A. Locke and G. Latham. Their theory suggests that goal setting is innate among human beings and that identifying and mapping out methods to reach goals are some of the most natural factors of human behavior. 




Related literature would tell you that goal setting theory is rooted on these four basic ideas:


1. People rationally set task-related goals.


2. People are the ones that determine how much time and effort are afforded into reaching these goals.


3. Goals, to be effective, must be specific, accepted and attainable.


4. It is important to list feedback on performance.


The goal setting theory assumes all of the above four and makes the following general claims:


1. Goal setting affects behavior.


2. Difficult goals result in higher performance levels.


3. Motivation comes from lessons from a previous goal.


4. Goal clarity affects performance.


5. Goal difficulty is directly proportional to satisfaction.



Goal Setting and Behavior


Goal setting theory states that identifying goals allows people to make calculated decisions. Once these are realized, they naturally direct and provide motivations so that these goals are reached. It also helps people commit to something and arrange their activities so as not to deter them from the intended achievement.


Performance is Correlated to Difficulty


The more challenging and difficult it is to reach a goal, the higher the resulting performance level. Of course, if a task is a little daunting, the more effort a person will likely give to accomplish it. According to the goal setting theory, performance is influenced by four key factors.


First, goal setting centers on a person's attention to actions that would lead to a goal, thereby reducing the time and energy given to things unrelated. Second, as mentioned earlier, the higher the goal, the more effort is required. Third, when a person knows he has control over the time and effort to be set aside, the more persistent he becomes. And fourth, there are lessons to be learned.



Motivation is Driven by Past Actions


People get motivated to work toward a goal if they had been exposed to or familiar with a similar situation that saw failure in the past. Goal setting theory notes that errors and dissatisfactions push people to do better the next time.


The clearer the goal, the better the performance


This needs no further explanation. If a person knows exactly what he wants to attain, it will be a lot easier to identify proceeding actions and faster to reach the goal. Performance works at its full potential this way.


Goal Difficulty Affects Satisfaction


In relation to factor number two, people tend to derive a greater worth when they complete difficult tasks. According to Locke and Latham's goal setting theory, satisfaction levels are driven by the amount of effort and sacrifice put into a certain goal. Challenging goals give a stronger sense of achievement.




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