There is a strong connection between setting goals and maintaining the motivation required to successfully attain them. In fact, there is research to support this. In the 1960s, 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. I want to dive deeper into the basis of these theories and some of the reasons to utilize goal setting for motivational success.
Goal Setting for Motivational Success
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Theories of Goal Setting and Motivation
The first researcher to study the relationship between goal setting and motivation was Dr. Edwin Locke who published his findings in 1968. 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. And 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:
So, 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.
Identify Reference Points
Create tangible reference points to keep you on track as you develop your goals and tasks to work towards those goals. This will most likely maintain or increase your motivation.
Again, think back to breaking your goals into bite-sized tasks that you can work on to achieve the overall goal. Once you’ve checked a task off you are now one step closer to success. Also, this helps to look at the tasks you’ve created in order to remind yourself of your purpose and to validate that you are moving in the right direction.
Make the Goal Manageable
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 tasks, along with similar strategies, can help you to avoid becoming overwhelmed by one big goal that is simply too complex to be achieved. You can increase motivation or sustain it when you feel some agency over your goals.
You must instill a sense of accountability with 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. If you haven’t checked out my goal setting worksheet, this a great tool to stay on track and accountable with your goals.
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 Quality of Life
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.