Goal Setting Theory

by ryan

Goal Setting Theory


If you are looking for a Ph.D. dissertation explanation and definition on goal setting theory and SMART Goals in general, you’ve come to the wrong website.

But if you are looking for a quick and general understanding in the basics of goal setting theory, SMART Goals, and more importantly-how to apply SMART Goals and goal setting to your daily life-then keep on reading…


Goal setting is a powerful tool with respect to influencing the actions and of people, and is used by many corporations all over the globe in achieving desired results. There are many goal setting tools including motivational software that is readily available both on-line and off-line that you can use-whether you have personal goals such as weight loss, career goals, or business goals.

The application of goal setting theory transcends all facets of civilized society, human psychology, human resource management and even organizational behavior.

What Are SMART Goals ?

SMART Goals which are defined by Dr. Edwin Locke as ( Specific , Measurable , Attainable , Relevant , and Timebound), pioneered goal setting research in the late 1960s.

Dr. Locke examined the relationship between how difficult and specific a goal and people’s performance of any given task. In a nut shell-Dr. Locke discovered that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance in general. According to Drs’ Locke and Latham, there are basically five principles of goal setting:



Clarity: Clear goals which are measurable, unambiguous, and behavioral. In essence if you have a goal that is clear and specific in understanding with a definite time-line for completion-there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded.

Challenge: One of the most important characteristics of goals is the level of challenge. People in general, are most often motivated by achievement, and they’ll judge a goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment. Basically, if you know the specific task you are about to do will be well received, then research suggests that there is a strong motivation for you to accomplish the task very well.

Commitment: Goals should be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective. Employees are more likely to “buy into” a goal if they believe that they were part of creating that goal. This is where “participative” management comes into play-whereby employees are involved in setting goals and making decisions along side management.

Feedback: In addition to selecting the right type of goal, an effective goal program must also include proper feedback. Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition. It’s also very important to provide benchmark opportunities or targets, so individuals can determine for themselves how they are doing.

Task Complexity: The last major point of goal setting theory includes two more requirements for optimal success. Goals or assignments that are highly complex, you really need to take special care to ensure that the work doesn’t become too overwhelming.

People who work in complicated and demanding roles, it is readily assumed; already have a have a higher level of motivation. However, these individuals can often push themselves too hard if measures aren’t built into the goal expectations to account for the complexity of the task. Therefore, it is recommended to provide the following:

Give the person sufficient time to meet the goal or improve performance.

Provide enough time for the person to practice or learn what is expected and required for success.

Key Points: By understanding goal setting theory/SMART Goals, you can effectively apply the principles to goals that you or your team members set.

It is also important to set realistic and achievable goals that have a specified time-line so goals can be completed as determined by management and employees themselves.

Goal Templates – Printable






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