Goal Setting Theory By Edwin Locke


We have our current understanding of goal setting theory thanks to Locke’s groundbreaking study on motivation and goal setting from the late 1960s. He demonstrated that setting clear goals and providing helpful feedback inspire employees in his 1968 essay “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives.” He continued by emphasizing that achieving a goal is another important source of motivation, which enhances performance. Goal setting theory became an important part along with other process theories of motivation like goal setting theory, equity theory, and reinforcement theory.

According to Locke’s study, people prefer to work more to obtain goals that are more challenging and specialized.

Goal Setting Theory, Edwin Locke

Locke examined a decade’s worth of laboratory and field research on the connections between goal setting and performance in one study. He discovered that, 90% of the time, setting precise, difficult-yet-reasonable goals resulted in better performance than setting general “do your best” goals.
For instance, urging someone to “try hard” or “do your best” is less helpful than urging them to “focus on beating your best time” or “aim to get more than 80% accurate.” A goal that is too simple is also unmotivating. Because it seems more like an achievement to achieve something you’ve worked hard for, difficult objectives are more inspiring than easy ones.

Locke Five Principles Of Goal Setting Theory

There are five goal setting theory guidelines that, in Locke’s opinion, might increase our chances of success:

  1. Clarity
  2. Challenge
  3. Commitment
  4. Feedback
  5. Task complexity

Let’s examine each of these components and see how you might use the goal setting theory to further your own aims and the goals of your team.

1. Having Specific Goals

You know what you’re attempting to accomplish when your goals are crystal clear. Additionally, you know which actions to reward, and you can measure results with accuracy. This is why the acronym SMART is so helpful.

However, a goal that is too nebulous or stated as a general directive, such as “take initiative,” is difficult to quantify and unmotivating. You might not even be aware that you’ve done it!

  • Write out your objective and be as specific as you can.
  • Consider how you’ll assess your progress toward achieving this objective. What particular measurements would you employ?
  • After you’ve chosen your objective, think about how it makes you feel. Are you ecstatic? Does the difficulty inspire you? You might need to make the aim more specific or perhaps modify it totally if you don’t feel passionately about it.

2. Setting Difficult Goals

People are frequently inspired by difficult objectives, but it’s crucial to avoid setting goals that are impossible to fulfil.

  • Consider your aim. Is the difficulty level high enough to pique your interest?
  • Create self-discipline so that you can persevere in solving issues.
  • Determine how you can treat yourself when you succeed. You’ll be inspired to complete difficult tasks if you receive incremental rewards for reaching certain milestones.
  • Be sure to do your homework before committing to a big project. You can be more realistic as a result.

3. Getting Team Support

Your team must comprehend and accept the objectives for it to be effective. Team members are more likely to “buy into” a goal if they were part in its creation.

This doesn’t mean that you have to negotiate every aim with your team members and obtain their consent. As long as they think the objective is realistic, it aligns with the company’s goals, and the individual assigning it is trustworthy, they’re inclined to commit to it.

  • Use visualisation techniques to see your life after reaching your objective to help you stay motivated.
  • To help yourself remember why you should work hard, make a treasure map. Visual representations of your objective may keep you motivated even when things get difficult.

4. Getting Feedback

In order to determine how well you and your team are progressing, you should choose the appropriate goals and pay attention to feedback.

You have the chance to change objective difficulty and explain people’s expectations through feedback.

Remember that criticism does not always come from other people. Simply assessing your personal development will allow you to determine how well you’re doing.

  • Once a week, set aside time to evaluate your achievements and growth. Consider what has and hasn’t worked and make changes as you go.
  • Learn how to approach others for their opinions on how you are doing.
  • To monitor and evaluate your success, use technology. A smart place to start is with an app like Lift.
  • By breaking down challenging or expansive goals into manageable pieces, you can track your progress. As you complete each milestone, ask for comments.

5. Thinking About Task Complexity

Make extra effort to prevent work from becoming too much when objectives or tasks are really difficult.

If they don’t consider the difficulty of the task, people who work in difficult and demanding professions frequently push themselves too hard.

  • Give yourself lots of time to complete challenging tasks. Establish deadlines that place the right amount of pressure on you while yet being attainable.
  • If you start to worry about achieving your objectives, they could be too difficult or improbable. Reevaluate both of these areas, and if required, change your objectives.
  • Divide up big, complicated goals into smaller sub-goals. You won’t feel as overwhelmed as a result and maintaining your motivation will be simpler.

Many of us are aware of the importance of goal setting in attaining success.

You may apply Locke and Latham’s concepts to your objectives by comprehending goal-setting theory. Their findings support the value of SMART goal-setting, and their theory still has an impact on how we assess performance today.

Set definite, difficult goals and make a commitment to reaching them if you want to use this technique. Don’t forget to evaluate your personal progress as well as the performance of others in accomplishing their goals. Additionally, take the task’s complexity into account and, when necessary, divide your goals into more manageable pieces.

These straightforward guidelines can help you develop goals that will be considerably more effective, and you’ll perform better overall. Goal Setting Theory is a part of the process model of motivation. The process model of motivation enquires about the ‘hows’ of human motivation. They tend to describe the mechanism of human behavior that leads to the desired goal.

Learn more about the human mind, discover yourself and remain motivated with Evolve! If you liked our article, try the Evolve App to help you move on and focus on your growth. Evolve has a range of guided audios that help you proactively manage stressreduce anxiety and make mindfulness light and joyful, so you can be balanced at anytime! The Evolve app is now live globally on Android and Apple. Click here to try it for free!

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Theories and Models of Motivation | Evolve US (evolveinc.io)