Goal setting is one of those things that has more power to motivate and inspire than most realize. Setting goals can help an individual or business stay organized, as well as motivate them to do better.

What most people have difficulties with is the fact they have huge goals, no way to reach them, or no real plan of execution. This is where Dr. Edwin Locke comes into play. Dr. Locke researched both goal setting and motivation in the 1960s. Locke’s 1968 article, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives,” reported that employees were motivated not only by clear goals but also by appropriate feedback.

So, can setting goals motivate people to continue improving both in their daily lives and in the workplace? When the goals are specific and action-oriented, the answer is yes.

Goal Setting Theory of Motivation

Goal Setting Theory for Beginners on Business

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Locke’s goal setting theory is linked to task performance. He found that highly specific goals and appropriate feedback, both during and after reaching the goals, contribute to better task performance. This is because the tasks associated with completing those goals give individuals and employees a more specific direction to follow, and also tell them how much effort they need to put in to complete those tasks.

Here is a quick look at some key features of the goal-setting theory:

  • Goals need to be clear and specific – the more specific, the better.
  • Goals need to be realistic and challenging – easy targets do not necessarily motivate an individual to put forth the necessary work to complete them.
  • Outside help is not always desired – employers or family and friends can be considered outside sources, and their support is not always wanted when it comes to reaching goals. Certain individuals work to prove to themselves that they can achieve their goals without much outside intervention.

Goal Setting Theory of Motivation in Motion


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To demonstrate the goal setting theory of motivation in the workplace, we have compiled a few examples for each of the main points.

Clarity of the Goal

For a goal to be truly effective, it must be clear. Employees must know precisely what they are supposed to achieve and when. Take a salesperson, for example, if they are merely told to “do better,” there is no clear action to take. Yet, if you tell them the company would like to see a “10 percent increase in sales in three months,” then they know what you want from them and when.

The Challenge Level and Complexity of the Goal

Is the goal you set for your employee challenging enough? In the example above, by asking the sales employee to “do better,” you are not issuing them any specific challenge. In contrast, if you ask them to increase their sales by 10 percent in three months, they understand that they need to complete a given task within a particular time.

It is also essential to take task complexity into account. Some tasks can be overwhelming. By helping your employees break down complex tasks into smaller subtasks, you’ll see a renewed interest in completing the overall goal.

Challenge Level and Complexity of the Goal Business

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Commitment to the Goal

The level of commitment to a goal is another critical aspect of the goal-setting theory. If an employee is allowed to participate in setting their individual goals and deadlines, they become more committed to the task.

Feedback During the Goal Tasks

Feedback is vital in the goal setting theory because it shows that you have an interest in your employee’s success. You cannot just leave your employee to fend for themselves and then evaluate them after the project is completed. By providing benchmarks along the way, you show your employees how they are doing and where they may be able to improve.

Goal Setting Theory Can Work for Anyone

Goal setting theory can be beneficial not only for a business but also for someone who owns their own business. Maybe you are a freelancer or own an online coaching business. Setting challenging yet attainable goals both short-term and long-term can help propel your business forward.

In fact, when working a job from home, properly working the goal setting theory can give you a great day-to-day list of things to do for both your business and potential clients. As long as you remember to challenge yourself and break down complex tasks into simpler ones, you will no doubt see an increase in productivity.

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