Why Goals? The Science of Goals

Is there evidence that proves that it is important to set goals? What are the benefits of setting goals, and what are the most effective methods? Here are answers to these questions based on research.

Edwin Locke’s Goal Setting Theory is summarized at Mind Tools. To motivate, goals must have:

  1. Clarity.
  2. Challenge.
  3. Commitment.
  4. Feedback.
  5. Task complexity.

Studies by Locke conclude that 90% of the time, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than did easy or no goals.

These principles are often described as S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. There are some variations on what the initials refer to, but often they stand for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

Is there evidence that proves written goals are most effective?

A Study Validating the Effectiveness of Written Goals

There are many references to a supposed study at Harvard/Yale that showed those who wrote down goals were 10% more successful, but it has been debunked. However an actual study has been done with results received from 149 participants at Dominican University. The results of the study show that the positive effect of written goals was supported: Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not. The study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals. (Source: Summary of Recent Goals Research (PDF), by Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University, see also here)

In fact, Michael Hyatt says in The Science of Goal Setting that just by writing down your goals you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them.

In the book 18 Minutes, Peter Bregman describes studies from the book “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz which reveal that deciding when and where we will do something makes it 80-100% more likely to be done.

Is there evidence that proves that goals that are measured are more likely to be achieved?

Measures matter. What we measure improves (Pearson’s Law)- “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

Science of Goals infographic at Slideshare created with easel.ly

The Science of Goals
  1. Clarity
  2. Challenge
  3. Commitment
  4. Feedback
  5. Task Complexity
Goal Theory: principles to improve chances of success in achieving goals from studies by Locke & Latham.-Mind Tools, and WikiSpaces

Track data on progress for feedback-Keeping a food diary doubles weight loss.-Science Daily

(For feedback on establishing habits: Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain Strategy.)

S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound
  • Goals have an end point. Studies have shown it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.-Brain Pickings

More about establishing habits:

Use Incentives: Positive (reward) and Negative (punishment) from Behavioral Economics-pbs.org

  • Financial pressure-We are loss-averse and likely to follow through if we lose money when we fail.
  • Social pressure- Knowing we will report to an accountability partner can help.-Quirkology
 See also

The Science of Productivity

 Download the Science of Goals at Slideshare

Goals provide a clear direction and keep us focused on the results we want. Learn more with the free short course How to Set Goals, and my eBook, “Get Goaling” is a clear step-by-step guide to setting & achieving goals.

Watch the video The Science of Goals from The Science of People.

Read More ….about the benefits of setting goals: The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Goals from Productive Magazine. The Science of Goals infographic from Happify. Article on Time Perspective from the National Library of Medicine. The science of positive psychology meets the science of goal accomplishment in the book Creating Your Best Life: the Ultimate Life List Guide by Caroline Miller and Dr. Michael B Frisch. This research-based book shows how goals contribute to a meaningful life.

See also Game On! The Rules of Setting Goals, Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard from the Daily PlanIt.

I seek to create order from the chaos of complex information. Join me at the Daily PlanIt to gain insights, inspiration, and information to increase skills for a better life. I unlock the power of teaching reading with phonics in the pursuit of literacy at www.phonicspow.com. In my spare time I explore books and movies, often choosing titles available on both screen and page.

Posted in goals
6 comments on “Why Goals? The Science of Goals
  1. Seph says:

    Okay, I’m going to but that book; Creating Your Best Life: the Ultimate Life List Guide.
    Positive Psychology is extremely helpful and interesting, thanks so much for the recommendation!

  2. […] more: about The Science of Goals, and develop more goal skills with the printable Goal Mastery pdf. View GPS for your life […]

  3. […] The Science of Goals Infographic and What’s the Motivation? from the Daily PlanIt […]

  4. […] any type of goal, decide when and where you will do it. Choose the best time to work on it, and organize all the resources you will need. […]

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