The 5 Principles of Effective Goal Setting

Dr. Edwin Locke’s 1968 paper “Towards a theory of task motivation and incentives.” identified five principles of effective goal setting:

  1. Clarity Unclear goals are one of the biggest stumbling blocks to achieving your goals! Clarity is about knowing what you are attempting to achieve, by when, and having some measure that signifies when you have achieved it. Lack of clarity leaves you vulnerable to losing focus and procrastination… wasting valuable time and energy.
  2. Challenge Goals are good…but challenging goals are better! The more difficult the goal, the more effort people put in leading to better goal attainment.
  3. Commitment Goal attainment is highest when people are committed to their goals (especially when there is challenge!) “High commitment to goals is attained when the individual is convinced that the goal is important; and the individual is convinced that the goal is attainable (or that, at least, progress can be made steadily toward it).”
  4. Feedback Tracking and monitoring your progress is vital for keeping you on track. It also gives you an opportunity to celebrate all the little victories on your journey.
  5. Task Complexity Complex tasks risk becoming overwhelming. If they are not carefully managed, complex tasks can erode your commitment and build to become huge obstacles. Complexity can be managed by “chunking” to craft a roadmap or smaller tasks that lead to your goal.