Effectively Setting Goals at Home and at Work

Effectively Setting Goals – at Home and at Work
By Hunter Laine

If you’ve ever done research into effectively setting goals, you’ve more than likely stumbled across Locke and Latham’s Goal-Setting Theory. Their research started back in the 1960s and has been consistently updated and validated since. Today, it remains an effective roadmap to increased performance in the workplace and to accomplish goals in general.

According to Locke and Lathan, the five main principles to successful goal-setting are: Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity. (Or CCCFT… It doesn’t quite have a ring to it, does it? Unless ‘Carefully Chosen Corvids Find Treasure’ sticks for you). For people, companies, groups, etc. to ideally set themselves up for success in setting and achieving their goals, these five principles need to be present.


For a goal to have clarity, it ought to follow the acronym, SMART (a much more obviously helpful one than CCCFT). SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Vague goals without a way to measure progress, and ultimately, success, end up being much harder to maintain motivation toward. So, write down your goal. Define it as much as you can. What constitutes progress? Ultimate Success? How can they be measured? Whatever the goal – increased productivity, better fitness, sticking to a project timeline – make sure that it is specific and measurable in an objective way.


So, it turns out that we like goals that are hard. Not impossible, but definitely challenging. If something is too easy, there is less of a sense of accomplishment in getting it done, and therefore less motivation to accomplish it. Humans are complicated creatures… To be fair, most of us have experienced a time when we’ve set a goal that is just unattainable and then the overwhelming helplessness leads us to complete inaction. So, it is a balancing act, but make sure when you set a goal that you’re reaching just a bit. And then refer back to Clarity to ensure that you set yourself up for success.


You have to care. Hopefully, if this is a goal you’re choosing to set, you already have at least a baseline interest in achieving it. If it’s a goal set by work and you aren’t really invested, maybe talk to your superior and figure out what could be altered to make it something that you care more deeply about. Get involved in the process of developing and setting the goal. It’s really difficult to achieve a goal (particularly one that is Challenging) if you aren’t truly committed to it’s outcome. Buy in, or bag out early.


Whether you are accountable to other people or only to yourself, this is a key part of accomplishing goals. Feedback allows you to track how you are doing along the way and adjust either the end goal to be more realistic, or the way that you are working toward that end goal. Set periodic feedback times so there are checkpoints to assess current progress and give yourself the space to either readjust effort or readjust expectations. Make these often and succinct.

Maybe there is technology (a project management app or a scale) that can provide consistent feedback. If you’re a superior at work giving feedback to an employee (or you’re giving feedback to yourself for your own personal goal) make sure that the feedback includes what is working, what is not working, and suggestions to do something differently. If something is not working in pursuit of an ultimate goal, catch that at the first checkpoint and readjust. We’ve all heard the too often over-used (and not technically correct), “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. Catch what isn’t working early, and do something different to create a different result.

Task Complexity

As we’ve said, goals should be Challenging to a certain degree, but that doesn’t mean that they should be overly-complex. Actually, quite the opposite. Make goals achievable. Often, that means breaking a much larger goal down into smaller and smaller component parts until it is sufficiently understandable. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with a goal, stop and see if you can break it down. Ultimately, you’ll get it all done, but when you break down, “Clean the House”, into individual rooms and then further into individual portions of each room, there’s more of a light at the end of sub-goal.

We’re in a new year, and while the striking of the clock at midnight on January 1, 2021 didn’t magically end the pandemic and solve all of our 2020 problems (shocking, right?), it is an opportunity to do a mental reset. Re-defining your goals in a meaningful way and move toward a version of who and where you want to be. Just get started. After all, “The most important step a person can take is always the next one” (Brandon Sanderson).

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