• Miroslava Rangel

it all begins with a goal

Life is a teleological process. All living organisms have some type of goal directedness in order to survive. Plants, for example, have the lowest level of goal-directed action that allows them to adjust their behavior according to the negative changes surrounding their environment. Lower animals have the next level of goal-directed action through sensory-perceptual mechanisms such as pleasure or pain. Humans, on the other hand, have a higher power of consciousness which allows us to conceptualize our own goals and set long range purposes. Our entire purpose throughout life is volitional. We have the power of reason to help us determine what is best for our well-being and then create and attain goals to reach our utmost potential.

Goal setting is inevitable throughout our lives and has been a major key in determining why some people perform better than others. Edwin A. Locke is a psychologist who conducted hundreds of studies over 25 years to better understand how to properly set goals and how it correlates with the success of people throughout time. Locke’s research showed that there is a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal is with people’s performance of a task. He found that a specific and difficult goal led to greater task performance than a vague and easy goal. From his research, Locke established five key principles that each goal must have: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and task complexity. By having a better understanding of these five principles, you will have a greater chance of accomplishing your goals throughout life.

1. Clarity

Having a specific and unambiguous goal are very important characteristics of accomplishing a goal. When you have a vague goal such as “be healthier” it will most likely not be achieved because there is not a clear definition of what “healthier” is. Goals need to be measurable and have a time frame in order to create motivation. The more specific and detailed the goal is the more you will be willing to work towards it and complete it. It is helpful to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. when crafting your goals. This can be a great way to start creating goals and understanding ways to make your goal as specific as possible.

2. Challenge

Locke determined that a challenging goal creates a greater drive in people rather than an easy goal. An easy goal tends to be viewed as unimportant and decreases your motivation. A goal should be challenging enough to spark interest and inspiration; this will create a greater incentive to accomplish the goal. The reward of achieving a difficult goal is much greater due to the amount of effort and perseverance that was needed. Never be afraid to create goals that are outside of your comfort zone. However, there needs to be a middle ground between creating a challenging goal and an attainable goal. When you create a goal that is too challenging and nearly impossible; it can be de-motivating and result in failure.

3. Commitment

You must have full commitment and put deliberate effort into achieving a set goal. To help with this you should write down your goals where you are able to see them every day. This can be on an alarm on your phone, on a bulletin board hanging in your room, or on a sticky note in your car. This will be a daily reminder of what you want to accomplish and will be a continuous boost of daily motivation. It is also helpful to create small daily goals that will help you achieve your large, ultimate goal. You are more likely to succeed if you are making small daily advancements; this will keep you focused and on the right track. Friends and family are also a great way to help you stay committed to your goals. Make sure you share your goals with people that will keep you accountable and will continuously support you.

4. Feedback

Along with having a clear specific goal, it is very important to have continuous feedback of your goals. Feedback helps you gauge your progress and determine how well or poorly you have been doing. It is important to device a method of measuring your progress in order to create adequate feedback. Schedule a time every week to analyze your progress. Notice what has and has not worked for you in that week. Positive feedback can be very motivating and exciting. It can be very rewarding to see how much progress you have made and will become a tool to continue to encourage you. However, feedback can also be a way to realize why you are not making any progress and what adjustments need to be made in order to turn your negative feedback into positive feedback.

5. Task Complexity

Being aware of the complexity of your goal can be a key factor between accomplishing your goal and flat-out quitting. When goals are too complex it can create stress and completely overwhelm you. Once you begin to feel stressed and anxious about your goal, you are less likely to accomplish anything. If you have created a very complex goal you need to give yourself sufficient time to work towards your goal, learn through your failures, improve performance, and practice methods that will help you succeed.

Through countless research studies and observing human behavior, Edwin A. Locke recognized these five key principles to be the most important in achieving goals and having overall success throughout your life. You have the potential to attain and accomplish anything in life; it all begins with a goal and the correct mindset.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” —Pablo Picasso