Goal Setting is Important.

Goal Setting

 Goal setting is vitally important for personal and business growth: my 47 years in business left me with no doubt about this.

For the last week I have been researching what is known about goal setting and this has led me to study the following sites.

Firstly I visited Mindtools.com to see what they had to say at


I found their view was “the process of goal setting  helps you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray“.

This is what I have believed for years but I wondered if this view was in any way scientifically supported so I visited

Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting
and Task Motivation
A 35-Year Odyssey
Edwin A. Locke University of Maryland
Gary P. Latham University of Toronto

Go to


Then click [PDF] from rice.edu

The authors summarize 35 years of empirical research on
goal setting theory.

Goal setting core findings summary

The highest level of effort occurred when the task was moderately difficult, and the lowest levels occurred when the task was either very easy or very hard.

A positive, linear function was found in that the highest or most difficult goals produced the highest levels of effort and performance.

It was found that specific, difficult goals consistently led to higher performance than urging people to do their best.

The concept of self-efficacy is important in goal setting theory in several ways. 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.

Goal setting expectancy and Social–Cognitive Theories

Goal setting theory appears to contradict Vroom’s (1964) valence–instrumentality–expectancy theory, which states that the force to act is a multiplicative combination of valence (anticipated satisfaction), instrumentality (the belief that performance will lead to rewards), and expectancy (the belief that effort will lead to the performance needed to attain the rewards). Other factors being equal, expectancy is said to be linearly and positively related to performance. However, because difficult goals are harder to attain than easy goals, expectancy of goal success would presumably be negatively related to performance.

The apparent contradiction between the two theories is resolved by distinguishing expectancy within versus expectancy between goal conditions

It was concluded that

Higher expectancies lead to higher levels of performance.

The highest or most difficult goals produced the highest levels of effort and performance.

The concept of self-efficacy is important in goal-setting theory in several ways. When goals are selfset, 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.
It is noted that 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.

Summary of what has been found in goal setting research:

1. When confronted with task goals, people automatically use the knowledge and skills they have already acquired that are relevant to goal attainment.

2. If the path to the goal is not a matter of using automatized skills, people draw from a repertoire of skills that they have used previously in related contexts, and they apply them to the present situation.

3. If the task for which a goal is assigned is new to people, they will engage in deliberate planning to develop strategies that will enable them to attain their goals.

4. People with high self-efficacy are more likely than those with low self-efficacy to develop effective task strategies

5. When people are confronted with a task that is complex for them, urging them to do their best sometimes leads to better strategies. This can create evaluative pressure and performance anxiety. The antidote is to set specific challenging learning goals, such as to discover a certain number of different strategies to master the task.

6. When people are trained in the proper strategies, those given specific high-performance goals are more likely to use those strategies than people given other types of goals; hence, their performance improves . However, if the strategy used by the person is inappropriate, then a difficult performance-outcome goal leads to worse performance than an easy goal.

Goal setting moderators  :

Goal commitment

The goal–performance relationship is strongest when people
are committed to their goals.
Commitment is most important and relevant when goals are difficult.
This is because goals that are difficult for people require high effort and are associated with lower chances of success than easy goals

Two key categories of factors facilitating goal commitment are (a) factors that make goal attainment important to people, including the importance of the outcomes that they expect as a result of working to attain a goal, and (b) their belief that they can attain the goal (self-efficacy).

Making a public commitment to the goal enhances commitment. Leaders communicating an inspiring vision and behaving supportively.
The goal–performance relationship is strongest when people are committed to their goals.

Importance. There are many ways to convince people that goal attainment is important. Making a public commitment to the goal enhances commitment, presumably because it makes one’s actions a matter of integrity in one’s own eyes and in those of others

Self-efficacy. As noted, self-efficacy enhances goal commitment. Leaders can raise the self-efficacy of their subordinates (a) by ensuring adequate training to increase mastery that provides success experiences, (b) by role modeling or finding models with whom the person can identify, and (c) through persuasive communication that expresses confidence that the person can attain the goal

Feedback For goals to be effective, people need summary feedback that reveals progress in relation to their goals. If they do not know how they are doing, it is difficult or impossible for them to adjust the level or direction of their effort or to adjust their performance strategies to match what the goal requires.

Task complexity. As the complexity of the task increases and higher level skills and strategies have yet to become automatized, goal effects are dependent on the ability to discover appropriate task strategies. Because people vary greatly in their ability to do this,
the effect size for goal setting is smaller on complex than on simple tasks.


Goals are, at the same time, an object or outcome to aim for and a standard for judging satisfaction. To say that one is trying to attain a goal of X means that one will not be satisfied unless one attains X. Thus, goals serve as the inflection point or reference standard for satisfaction versus dissatisfaction.


Goal setting is an important part of  achievement outcome.

# 1/ Difficult, specific goals result in a higher level of effort.
# 2/ Self-efficacy and positive expectancy affects outcomes.
# 3/ Goals have a directive and energising function.
# 4/ Goals affect persistence and action levels.
# 5/ Goal commitment leads to strongest performance
# 6/ Goal effectiveness is increased by the feedback process
# 7/ Goal achievement can be affected by leaders communicating an inspiring vision and behaving supportively.

We should be in no doubt that setting specific high target goals backed by self-efficacy, commitment and visionary supportive leadership with good feedback results in better goal achievement.



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