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Goal Setting Theory 101

Updated on December 20, 2012
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Goal setting

Goal setting theory has been widely used in most workplace and in personal life since it was developed five decades ago by Dr. Edwin Locke. During his research he found that goal setting improves the work production to the maximum level.

Setting goals and achieving them certainly motivates the person to continue working. Sometimes even if the goals are not achieved, the person is still committed to get success. So the person may even change the strategy to achieve that particular goal. Having goals in mind keeps the person engaged in the activity and develop more knowledge or ideas during the process. Setting goals directs anyone towards working towards the certain path without being distracted or lost in the way.

Tips on setting achievable goals

  • Do not set conflicting goals, make your goals clear
  • Do not set too difficult goals
  • Do not set too many goals at the same time
  • Appreciate the failure if you have faced and change the strategy
  • Review and reflect on your progress regularly
  • Reward yourself when you achieve mini-goals

Why set goals

We need to set goals to ease our process of achieving success in the way we want to succeed. Without goals and only expectations merely can anyone reach or achieve their target and the result will be haphazardness in the life that eventually results in frustration, feeling of failure, low-self esteem and collection of negative thoughts and feelings in a person. Also without goals a person or a company may lack motivation as there will be no pathway to follow and work ahead. Future may seem bleak. Many people who are successful today are there because they had certain goals and objectives in their mind. They tried their set goals, changed or adjusted the strategies in the midst according to the circumstances of their life and finally made their dream true. One thing that you need to remember for sure is to set goals as it has been proven that having set goals leads one to at least somewhere, as setting goals will help one keep focused and avoids from getting distracted and reach success more quickly.

What kind of goals to set

We all know that setting long term goals can be useful many times, but only short term goals or mini-goals leads us there. Short term goals are means to create the pathways to achieve the long term goals. To achieve the long term goals such as I will be a Clinical Nurse Specialist in next 5 years, one of your short term goals should be like I will take short term courses such as venipuncture or cannulation skills, practice doing this skills in a dummy, practice doing this skills in patient with easy veins under supervision and be competent. There can be many other similar goals that you can set to reach to your final goal. So, I repeat here, to achieve the long term goal you have to achieve various short term goals first. Achieving small goals will also give you the confidence to work hard on achieving more large goals.

How to achieve goals

I have come up with some of this practical tips to ease your chance of achieving goals:

Create a mental picture of how can achieve your goal and how you will feel after achieving your goal. Creating a mental picture will make your goals clear to you before you start writing them down.

Write down your goals: The second step would be visulaize your goals by writing them down. When you write down your goals, also write down the steps on how to achieve those goals. Use numerics to make your goals and make the steps cleas. As you achieve your goals, mark off each step after you are success at achieving it.

Priortise your goals: When you write down, write down which goals you need to achieve first and focus on those goals.

Be ready for failure, be ready to change those goals: When you write down goals and start following the steps your chance of success is really large, but sometimes as many things are unpredictable in life, be prepared that some of those steps may not work and some of those goals may change in the midst. You might realize the goals you have written high expectanct or of less expectant than you thought you were capable of. But because you made goals and as you keep following the goals that are linked to each other you will find that you will succeed more quickly as you have learnt lots of tips and tricks in your pathway and things can start to become easier. To avoid this, make sure that you set goals that are achievable so that you don't feel or lack confidence for next time if you need to something in your life.

Be specific: Your goals might be difficult, but if they are specific your chance of getting success is quite possible. For instance, my goal was to how to teach my child to draw a spider man (a specific goal) not how to teach my child to draw (unspecific goal), as with the latest goal I wouldn't know where to start first but as my goal was specific I taught him some of the steps to draw spider man and he can now draw it. I know you would think that is too specific, but while he was learning to draw spider man, he learned about how to make round shape, what does spider look like, what is web etc.. This learning will help him draw other figures quite easily in the future.

Reflect: Reflecting back on what you have achieved time and again, will teach you whether you are achieving what you were looking for, whether you should improvise your or follow the same steps, are the achievement giving you satisfaction the way you wanted. Write down when you succeed or fail to achieve something, as that is one of the way to find out whether you should change the action or follow with the same.

Get feedback: Getting feedback about the achievement of your goals can be quite motivational towards achieving your other goals. If you are a new employee who just found a job, make sure you ask the feedback about your work from your team leader or your manager so that you can be motivated to do better and to improve on your less developed skills before they tell you about your shortcomings. By doing this you can stay and progress on the job you have worked so hard to find.

Goal setting worksheet example

Goal setting worksheet example to become Clinical Nurse Specialist in Renal Unit in next 5 years:

1. Learn cannulation skills

  • Attend the cannulation course
  • Practice cannulation on 3 dummies (specific)
  • Practice cannulation on 5 easy patient in a month under guidance (Time-specific)
  • Get feedback
  • Be competent

2. Learn how to connect CCPD (Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis) to patient in a sterile way:

  • Observe the seniors connecting the CCPD to the patient
  • Write the steps that was followed by the Senior
  • Read the steps once before you go and do it
  • Connect under the supervision of experienced person
  • Get feedback



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    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      I am pretty sure you will achieve your goal this setting your goals you are already on the way to achieve your goals! All the best!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I have already set my goals this year, 2013. I hope I can accomplish it, even, there will be unavoidable intermissions that are beyond my grasp.