How to set goals?

Most people set goals to track their own progress. Some examples are decision making at the beginning of the month like “I will start training the first of the month”, “I will get more involved around the project at work”. We often make bigger decisions for big events, such as “after the New Year I will stop smoking”, “for my thirtieth birthday I will change my job”. The problem arises when we do not know how to meet these goals which can lead to feelings of failure and frustration. One way to set goals was established by Locke and Latham (1990). The basic assumption of this theory is that human behavior is motivated only by conscious intentions ie. goals. Based on the analysis, Locke and Latham (1990) concluded that the success of a goal is greater if it is set “SMART”. The acronym “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound goal setting. We will explain these characteristics below.

Specific. The achievement of the goal is influenced by the steps that need to be elaborated in detail for the goal to be successful. Therefore, it is important to develop activities that will be done within a certain period of time and/or set a sub-goal within the goal in order to motivate more. This step serves as a goal-setting check of the steps below.

Measurable. It is important to set a goal whose achievement could be measured. For example, an employee’s goal “working more hours” is not measurable because it is not specified exactly how much „more“ is meant. While the example “I will stay 30 minutes longer at work” is a goal that can be measured and thus monitor your own progress. In this way, the motivation to achieve that goal is maintained because it can be observed how close or far we are from achieving it.

Attainable. An achievable goal is one that pushes a person towards the upper limits of their abilities, and at the same time challenging for personal growth. Therefore, if in this example the boss order to the employee to work 2 hours longer it would be beyond the capacity of the person and he would be demotivated to perform the tasks. While staying just 5 minutes longer would not contribute to the employee’s sense of fulfillment.

Relevant. The goal must be in line with desires and values. It is important that the goal is personally imposed and that it is led by intrinsic motivation. Therefore, in the case of an employee, the imposition of longer working hours by a boss, wife, or colleague would sound repulsive because it stems from meeting someone else’s criteria rather than their own. On the other hand, working longer because “I want to learn more” and progressing sooner is motivated by the person himself, and fulfilling that goal leads to a feeling of satisfaction.

Time bound. In order to set a goal, it is important to determine its beginning and the deadline within which that goal is to be achieved. For this reason, “I’ll stay 30 minutes longer at work” is a measurable goal, but not a timely one. If we add to this goal a time component such as “from 1.9. to 31.12. I will stay an hour longer at work on Mondays and Fridays ”then we set our expectations when the goal will start and end.

Theoretically it is easy to talk about setting goals. In real life there are many challenges that make acheiving goals more difficult. For example, “on the very day when I have to work longer, I have to pick up my daughter from kindergarten.” Which can lead to feelings of frustration because that situation has led to a distance from the goal. In such situations, it is important to be gentle with yourself, to stop and think from the other person’s perspective, to observe whether situations that deviate from the goal often occur. All of the above is a natural process because the path to achieving the goal is not a straight line, but a slightly winding road by which you get to know yourself and strengthen your courage and perseverance to achieve the goal.

If this text prompted you to set a goal, the NAOMI application has exactly this exercise that can help you. With daily use and setting daily goals, you can learn to set goals and, finally, master this skill.



Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Prentice-Hall, Inc.


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