Goal theory

Goal Setting Theory

The roots of Goal Setting can be traced back to Aristotle, in his thoughts on 'final causality' or 'end' - that for the sake of which a thing is done.

More recently, Edwin A. Locke began to examine goal setting in the 60’s. Locke publishing his first article, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives”, in 1968, establishing some key points:-

  • A positive connection between clearly identified goals and results in terms of performance.
  • That goals are a mental & intentional in nature.


On further reading (below) you will notice that the observation on setting goals is the initiation of the SMART Goals concept.


The five principles of effective goal setting

  1. Clarity – the goal needs to be specific and clearly defined
  2. Challenge – extend yourself, make it a challenge. If not, then it’s just a task, no?
  3. Commitment – ensure this goal comes from you and that your want it.
  4. Feedback – consider how well the goal is progressing. This needs your honest feedback. Maybe ask a friend for some input.
  5. Task complexity – 1) be realistic about what the goal is to achieve, 2) break down the goal into smaller chunks if necessary


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SMART is a helpful acronym for defining goals in such a way that they have the best possible chance of being achieved Ensure each of your goals have these 5 elements defined:- Specific – the goal is clear, concise, and unambiguous. Measurable – you are able to record & track progress, preferably with a numeric

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