Strengthening Motivation with the Goal Setting Technique

Written by: Matej Tušak, Ph.D. and Eva Kovač, Univ. graduate of Psychology

Goal setting technique is one of the most effective motivating methods. In this article we will try to explain why it is so and what good goals are. Every motivation can be explained as a movement towards our objective. If we try to rephrase it: goal is a "zenith point" to which we guide our ship. So, let's concentrate on effective goal setting and goals themselves.

The goal setting technique is one of the most effective methods in the motivational process. To put it simply: an individual sets their goals that they try to achieve by behaving suitably. As we reach our goal, the motive of the goal is satisfied as well.

Motive is an answer to a question: "Why do I do something?" Let's take an example of a person who likes to work out. We can understand their motive if we simply ask them: "Why do you work out?" The motives that lead to the goal are defined according to that goal.

So far the motivational process seems quite simple – we have a motive and a goal. So we are motivated, right? But the real question is how strong is our motivation and for how long we will persist with the activity. The answer is strength of the motive (how strong the motive is) and the quality of goals we have set.

Why Goal Setting?

The process of goal setting enables us to systematically decide what we want to achieve and by that fulfil our motives. It is easier to focus on what we want and follow the objective when we know what the thing we want is.

Long-term goals (objectives) setting empower our vision and short-term goals lead us to each of our objectives. They help us to promptly check whether we are on the right path; each achieved goal empowers our motivation, as well as raising our self-confidence and competency. It reminds us that we like to do what we are good at.

What Are Good Goals Like?

As you set goals about working out, do not just say: "I want to lose weight," or: "I want to be fitter," or: "I want to get in shape." Generally these goals suit as great streams to the objectives but they do not work well as goals. Why is that so?

They're not specific enough (How much weight do we want to lose? What does fitter mean?), they cannot be measured and are not time bound (Until when do we want to lose weight? When will I check my progress?), and they are not a process (How will I achieve the final result?). As well you should ask yourself if the goal is reachable and relevant for you.

Good goals are:

  • specific,
  • measurable,
  • achievable,
  • suitable,
  • time bound,
  • evaluative,
  • written,
  • formed positively, and
  • progressive.

Examples of well-formed goals:

  • Objective (or long term goal): Get in shape.
  • Short term goal #1: Lose 2 pounds.
  • Short term goal #2: Going to a fitness club at least 4 times a week and follow the program.
  • Short term goal #3: Switching time spent passively (watching TV) with going for a walk or house work at least twice a week.
  • Short term goal #4: Eating 5 meals a day; 2 of those including just fruit.
  • Short term goal #5: No sweets, snacks, or desserts.

Possible problems on the path to our goal and how to cope with them:

  • Laziness – doing a difficult task as a punishment.
  • Lack of time – create a well-defined schedule. When not obeying it; use punishment again.
  • My strengths: great desire to reach the objective. (Keeping strengths in mind helps a lot!)
  • My weaknesses: poor time management. (Control the weaknesses.)
  • Award yourself when a goal is accomplished: take an extra hour for favorite activities.
  • Example of punishment: extra 4-hours run on Sunday.
Example of a goal
Short term goal   Check Accomplished/Unaccomlished
Lose 2 pounds   Put in a date Accomplished
Going to a fitness club 4 times a week Monday Put in a date Accomplished
Tuesday Put in a date Accomplished
Thursday Put in a date Accomplished
Friday Put in a date Accomplished
Time spent passively Monday Put in a date Accomplished
Tuesday Put in a date Accomplished
Wednesday Put in a date Accomplished
Thursday Put in a date Accomplished
Friday Put in a date Accomplished

By setting goals and realizing how well we achieved them we get great information about our previous input. As seeing your input and realizing you have accomplished all your short term goals, you will feel proud of yourself, be more confident, knowing you are on the right path towards your objective. All this will provide additional motivation.

Stay persistent, determined, self-disciplined, and positively critical while achieving your goals. Do not forget that every beginning is difficult at first. Good luck!