How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Work?

Motivation is a broad topic, to begin with. A lot of people theorized it on how it works. And how can be applied to in all ways possible? These intellectuals and scholars have come up with different theories categorized under two main theorize. The main content theories and man-process theories. Such theories under main content theory are:

  • Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy,
  • David McClelland’s Achievement Motivation Theory
  • Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory
  • Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG theory

Process theories include:

  • B.F. Skinner Reinforcement Theory
  • J. Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory
  • Victor H. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
  • Edwin Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory

This article will focus primarily on Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory, how it works, and its application on how to motivate an individual.

Edwin Locke’s Vision Of How Motivation Works

How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

Back in 1968, Edwin Lock has suggested that the goal setting is directly connected to a task performance. It accentuates that placing a definitive, challenging performance goal. And of course, the obligation and effort towards these goals are important factors of motivation. These Goals are commonly represented as the desired outcome of any task given. And can initiate and encourage one’s behavior towards it. And the accomplishment of these said goals can facilitate one’s motivation even further, thus increasing the effort exerted and drive to perform.

In short, the goal itself is what gives direction to a person on what needs to be performed and completed. That also includes how much effort and dedication one is needed to render. In order to do that, one has to have a clear vision of their desired goal or outcome of the task being performed. It should be challenging and realistic too. In this way, the person will feel satisfied and a sense of pride when completing it. In this way, the said person will be more motivated, and confident in tackling or facing the next task.

Of course, the more demanding and challenging a task is, the greater those feelings manifest and the bigger the reward expected. Making one more passionate and ardent in achieving it.

Setting effective goals will show the whole essence of the task, thus making one realize its true importance. There are a couple of fundamental things that one should know.


How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

Making a goal clear and transparent will eliminate no room for any misunderstanding and confusion along the way. A goal should be certain about what behavior it is desired. Its parameters, and its rewards after its completion in order for effective execution. A poorly defined and unclear instruction or vision on a said goal will guarantee that there will be problems along the way, or ultimately the abandonment of the task.


How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

No one wants a dull task that does not even gives a little challenge to the person doing it, right?  The goals must always have an adequate amount of difficulty in it in order to motivate one to accomplish it. Always keep in mind that balance should always be observed. Since too much challenge will make it harder or impossible to achieve, and little to no challenge will not inspire motivation to the one doing it.


How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

If people don’t commit to the goal or the task at hand, they will not put any effort in accomplishing or attaining the said goal. The goal should meet the expectation one should have towards it. Ways to have others or yourself committed to a certain task includes using rewards and bonuses. Having others for support, guidance, and encouragement.


How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

In order to effectively perform and accomplish goals or task, one should listen to feedback in order to know their progress and on how well do they perform. In this way, one could change or adjust what they do or their approach on the said task. Feedback comes to one’s self (self-realization and self-judgment) as well as from other people.


How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?
How Does A Goal-Setting Theory Works?

The complexity and technicality of a task or goal should be directly proportional to how high the motivation of the one doing it. This should be met or else one can’t attain the required level of motivation or willingness to do the job. If a task or job is a bit complex, give yourself ample time to learn the ins and outs of the ordeal. Making one more competent and knowledgeable on how to properly execute the job.


Setting a goal is one of the primary ways to boost one’s motivation in attaining it. Ineffectively setting one may lead to discouragement, loss of motivation, and may dissuade one to further continue on it. Whether it is just a simple task such as doing the dishes, to complex ones such as rising in the ranks or climbing the corporate ladder of your company will totally depend on how you perceive the endgame.

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