Goal-Setting and Motivation

Goal setting and motivation are cognitive tools which facilitate work performance and personal achievement. A goal is an objective; when an individual sets a goal, motivation is a key factor in the attainment of that goal. Numerous self-help books teach people how to motivate themselves. Goal setting may be initiated by the individual concerned or by an external force. Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic.

Research has found that autonomous motivation indicates success in a person's work performance and creativity. Richard M. Ryan, in his article "Facilitating Optimal Motivation and Psychological Well-Being Across Life's Domains," finds proof in various studies, of the efficacy of motivation in daily life. Motivation affects personal relationships, the work ethic and health and education. Components of motivation assist persistence, energy, development and performance in all areas of life. According to Ryan, motivation is a result of socio-cultural impact: "Most theories of human motivation have therefore focused on the effects of social environments, including the rewards, incentives, and relationships inherent in them." Positive feedback, reinforcement and support by parents, employers or teachers are all conducive to goal achievement and motivation.

There are two types of motivation: autonomous and controlled. People with autonomous motivation are in complete control of their choices; total volition is the key to their success. Controlled motivation involves the pressure and demand of external forces. Often enough these expectations come from parents. The type of motivation that drives a personality is dependent on the interaction between a person's inherent nature and the surrounding social environment. According to the self-determination theory, all humans feel a need to be independent and capable and to be interactive with other people. Ryan confirms that "social contexts that facilitate satisfaction of these three basic psychological needs will support people's inherent activity, promote more optimal motivation, and yield the most positive psychological, developmental, and behavioral outcomes." On the other hand, an unhealthy social context that hinders personal satisfaction can be detrimental.

Intrinsic motivation is usually the outcome of feelings; performing well in a certain task sparks satisfying feelings which prompt the person to succeed. An extrinsic motivation has nothing to do with the task at hand, rather the person feels the need to perform the task for a reward or to avoid a punishment. Various studies have researched the effect extrinsic motivation has on intrinsic motivation. These studies found that the provision of an award for an activity that a person enjoys will probably undermine that person's intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivation takes away a person's volition and sense of autonomy, thereby limiting the enjoyment of the activity. Yet feedback in the form of positive reinforcement, in contrast to tangible rewards, is an effective extrinsic motivation, for it promotes the person's feeling of competence. Studies show that negative feedback can have the opposite effect. The overall climate of a classroom, a home or an office can enhance or lessen motivation.

Self-efficacy is an intrinsic motivational tool. Matters of self-esteem and self-efficacy are further stimulants to goal setting. The goal setter must believe that he or she is capable of accomplishing the goal. Various studies have researched the effect that self-efficacy has on goal achievement. A study conducted by Professor Albert Bandura in 2000 found that "people with a strong sense of self-efficacy will persevere in the face of failure and setbacks and view obstacles as challenges rather than as reflections of personal deficiencies." Personal drive and the determination to succeed are fundamental characteristics of entrepreneurs. People with a strong sense of self-efficacy will view obstacles as opportunities, not as threats. The ability to acknowledge and take advantage of opportunities is a keystone to entrepreneurship. People with high levels of self-efficacy and self-confidence will pursue and seek out challenging goals, whereas a person with low self-esteem will avoid difficulties. Leading businessmen are judged based on their goal standards, their "think big" creed.

According to the goal setting theory, a challenging goal will elicit better work performance than an easy or "do your best" goal. The more difficult and specific the goal, the greater is the motivation. Goal setting usually involves attaining a certain amount of proficiency in a task under the duress of a time limit. A shorter time limit encourages a faster work pace than a longer time limit. The "do your best" goal is considered equivalent to setting no goal at all, as it lacks specificity and focus. Research by Kasser and Ryan in 1996 evaluated the role long-term goals play on a person's well-being. They found that long term goals are divided into two categories: those that had ambitions for fame and fortune and those that prioritized personal satisfaction and meaningful relationships. The former was labeled an extrinsic goal, because it revolved around generating a good reputation and external rewards, whereas the latter was labeled an intrinsic goal, illustrating the basic need for autonomy, competence and relatedness. Those in the former group displayed low levels of psychological well-being, while those in the latter group had high levels of psychological well-being.

Goal-Setting and Motivation: Selected full-text books and articles

Motivation: Theory and Research By Harold F. O'Neil Jr.; Michael Drillings Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Goal Setting Theory"
Work Motivation By Uwe Kleinbeck; Hans-Henning Quast; Henk Thierry; Hartmut Häcker Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "An Action Control Conceptualization of Goal-Setting and Feedback Effects"
From Management Goal Setting to Organizational Results: Transforming Strategies into Action By Keith Curtis Quorum Books, 1994
Librarian's tip: "The Motivational Basis for Goal Setting" p. 36
Motivation for Achievement: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning By M. Kay Alderman Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Goals and Goal Setting"
Motivation and Learning Strategies for College Success: A Self-Management Approach By Myron H. Dembo Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Goal Setting"
Motivating Students to Learn Better through Own Goal-Setting By Madden, Lowell E Education, Vol. 117, No. 3, Spring 1997
An Exploratory Study of Academic Goal Setting, Achievement Calibration and Self-Regulated Learning By Garavalia, Linda S.; Gredler, Margaret E Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 2002
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Goal Setting and Attainment in Graduate Student Training Groups By Perrone, Kristin M.; Smith, Christine L.; Carlson, Torie E College Student Journal, Vol. 37, No. 3, September 2003
Motivation and Emotion By Phil Gorman Routledge, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Psychological Theories of Motivation"
Motivation, Planning, and Action: A Relational Theory of Behavior Dynamics By Joseph Nuttin; Raymond P. Lorion; Jean E. Dumas Leuven University Press; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1984
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "From Needs to Goals and Plans"
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