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?

What we measure improves – “Studies show that people do better when they keep track of their progress.” See more about The Science of Setting and Achieving Goals at Achieving Personal Goals.

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:

  • Make it easy to maintain by lowering the barrier to change.-Sean Achor’s 20 second rule.
  • Don’t rely on willpower, a limited resource that can be used up.-NYTimes.
  • Take baby steps: B J Fogg on Tiny Habits.-Sparring Minds.
  • Match your methods with your personality type.-Gretchen Rubin

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: NASC (pdf), Goal Setting For Success, and The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Goals from Productive Magazine. The Science of Goals infographic from Happify. 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.

By dailyplanit Posted in goals

6 comments on “Why Goals? The Science of Goals

  1. 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. Pingback: How to Set Goals | Daily PlanIt

  3. Pingback: Optimize Your Day With the Science of Productivity | Daily PlanIt

  4. Pingback: Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard | Daily PlanIt

  5. Pingback: Smart Skills Trading Cards: Emotions | Daily PlanIt

  6. Pingback: Tip the Scales to Master Motivation: Visual Strategies to Overcome Procrastination | Daily PlanIt

Comments are closed.