There is a strong connection between setting goals and maintaining the motivation required to successfully attain them. In fact, in the 1960’s, behavioral research led to an understanding of the relation between these concepts, and theories were developed to shed insight on the concrete ways one influences the other. Let’s take a look at the basis of these theories and then at some of the reasons to utilize goal setting for motivational success.
Theories of Goal Setting and Motivation
The first researcher to study the relationship between goal setting and motivation was Dr. Edwin Locke. He published his findings in 1968l. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory concluded that specific goals provided more motivation than vague ones. Along these lines, goals that provided a challenge were shown to be better motivators than easier ones. In addition, Locke discovered that positive feedback was highly influential toward increasing motivation. Essentially, the very act of creating a goal leads to better performance. Decades later, in 1990, Locke paired up with Dr. Gary Latham to develop the Goal Setting and Motivation Theory, whose main premise is that five fundamental principles influence effective goals setting and that goal achievement is more likely when higher numbers of these principles are in place. The five fundamental principles of the theory are:
In essence, your goals should be clear and provide you with enough of a challenge to entice you to reach them. However, it’s important that these goals not be so complex as to cause frustration or overwhelm; this would be counterproductive. Goals that inspire motivation also should include an aspect of formally committing to them and have a check-in method in place to determine satisfactory progression.
By developing objectives through the framework of goal setting theories, you are providing yourself with a tangible reference point to keep you on track. Thus, your motivation is likely to endure. You are able to look at the points you’ve written down in order to remind yourself of your purpose and to validate that you are moving in the right direction.
Proper structure of your goals can also make your overall plan seem more attainable. By assuring that your goals are challenging, you’ll keep your brain stimulated. Breaking things down into short-term and long-term targets, along with similar strategies, can help you to avoid becoming overwhelmed by one big goal that is simply too complex to be achieved. Motivation is better sustained when you feel some agency over your goals.
By adding a check-in mechanism of some sort, you will be instilling a sense of accountability to your goals. It’s easy to toss a goal aside when you don’t really have to answer to anyone, or even yourself, with regard to progress. Find an accountability partner to share accomplishments with or build assessment dates into your calendar in which you self-check your progress.
Challenging, yet realistic, goals that allow for the monitoring of progress can do a lot for your sense of mastery. Seeing your goal becoming closer to reality through hard work and skill is empowering. Hearing praise from your network is also motivating toward fulfilling an objective. Confidence is increased through all of these things.
Improve Life Quality
Essentially, having well-developed goals can lead to a more fulfilling life. By taking the time to proactively define what you want and working toward that desire, you are living with purpose. Those who know what they want and feel they are on track to achieve it are generally more motivated and satisfied individuals.
As you can see, there is a strong relationship between goals and motivation. In order to sustain motivation, you must not only set goals, but your goals need to have structure. Following these guidelines can increase both your motivation and your chances of reaching your intentions.