How Do You Set Your Goals?

How do you set your goals?  Dr. Edwin Locke has set forth the SMART way to set goals. They should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Based on this work, a few years later, Dr. Locke (of the University of Maryland) teamed up with Dr. Gary P. Latham (of the University of Toronto) and wrote: “Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation” along with other publications. (

Their core findings are illustrative:

1.  The highest level of effort occurred when a task was moderately difficult, and the lowest levels occurred when a task was either very easy or very hard. They found that difficult goals consistently led to higher performance.

Accordingly, you should set goals that cause you to stretch and grow!

2.  When goals are self-set, people with high self-efficacy set higher goals than do people with lower self-efficacy. They also are more committed to assigned goals, find and use better task strategies to attain the goals, and respond more positively to negative feedback than do people with low self-efficacy.

This shows that you should have a positive, direct hand in setting your goals – you will be better motivated, better committed and better able to respond to changing conditions!

3.  Goals affect performance through four mechanisms.

  • First, goals serve a directive function; they direct attention and effort toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.
  • Second, goals have an energizing function. High goals lead to greater effort than low goals.
  • Third, goals affect persistence. When participants are allowed to control the time they spend on a task, hard goals prolong effort.
  • Fourth, goals affect action indirectly by leading to the arousal, discovery, and/or use of task-relevant knowledge and strategies.

Accordingly, a major part of time management is learning to set your own goals at levels that energize you and seek to drive you to learn new information and approaches. By setting SMART goals, you can make the most of your time and motivate yourself to perform at your best (as well as your team).

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