Goal Setting

Grow Your Online Business with Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

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Locke's goal setting theory

If you’re like me…you’ve tried many methods for goal setting in the past and have failed at many of them. What if I told you that there’s a simple method for setting specific and challenging goals that you will commit to?

Introducing Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

Dr. Edwin Locke’s goal setting theory will motivate you to set business goals that will “10x” your performance. But there are no shortcuts. Setting goals and going after them requires hard work. Locke-inspired goals are designed to be hard to achieve but I know that you can do it!

Locke’s goal setting theory has positively impacted business productivity for large corporations and online business owners like yourself. Implementing this business-transforming theory will help you achieve bigger business goals and improve engagement with clients/customers and team members.

About Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham worked on their goal setting theory throughout the 1960s. They published their groundbreaking research in the article Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentive. The big takeaway from their research is that setting and going after specific and realistically challenging goals led to better performance than setting easy goals 90 percent of the time. Wowzers! This stat alone should motivate you to set more challenging business goals.

Here is a summary of the research from the article’s abstract:

This paper summarizes and integrates research concerned with a long-neglected topic in psychology: the relationship between conscious goals and intentions and task performance. The basic promise of this research is that an individual’s conscious ideas regulate his actions. Studies are cited demonstrating that: (1) hard goals produce a higher level of performance (output) than easy goals; (2) specific hard goals produce a higher level of output than a goal of “do your best”; and (3) behavioral intentions regulate choice behavior.

Setting challenging goals is not only about the result of achieving the goal, it’s also effective in changing you as a person. Setting positive and challenging goals, according to Locke’s goal setting theory, will:

1. Improve your choices or decisions.

Setting a goal instantly limits your choices and aids discernment. For instance, if you set a goal of writing five 2000-word blog posts every week…this goal will lead you to make scheduling decisions that will give you focused writing time instead of say…going to play a round of golf during optimum writing time. You will be focused on the right choices. Setting a specific, time-bound goal(s) is the key to motivating you to make choices (and habit changes) that will improve your chances of achieving the goal(s).

2. Increase your level of effort.

Locke and Latham’s goal setting theory is all about motivation. Heck, it motivated me to make more challenging goals and write a 2000+ word article on the subject. Setting Locke-inspired goals will inspire you to work harder to achieve them.

3. Help you become more persistent in achieving your goals.

As a result of increased effort…setting goals will help will your way to achieving your goals through sheer persistence. Things don’t always go as planned. Life can be filled with interruptions and setbacks. The persistence from increased effort will help you go far in your business. You can do it!

4. Improve your thinking and mindset for achievement.

Goal setting and sticking to a plan can be hard for some people. It was a challenge for me at one time. But there’s good news! Your brain will rewire and your mind will actually begin to enjoy setting and acting up Locke-inspired goals. You will experience a mindset shift and the process of goal setting, work/practice and achievement will become a normal thing. This is a growth, goal-oriented mindset

Check out this helpful video that breaks down the characteristics and benefits of Locke’s goal setting theory.

Locke's Goal-Setting Theory – Setting Meaningful & Challenging Goals

Locke’s Theory and SMART Goals

Are you familiar with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals? Setting SMART goals is a common practice for personal and business goal setting. I used to set SMART goals, but I’ve come to realize that they don’t spur motivation like Locke-inspired goals. Unlike Locke’s goal setting theory, setting SMART goals doesn’t incorporate the strategy of making CHALLENGING goals. With this realization, I decided to merge the two systems and the results have been astounding for my business and personal life.

Combine SMART goal setting with Locke’s goal setting theory works by using SMART goals as sub-goals that come together to form the challenging Locke-inspired business goals. I call this process “chunking” (more on this process later). Here’s an example:

Challenging Locke-inspired business goal: publish a 5000-word affiliate marketing ebook by June 10th

SMART sub-goal: write an affiliate marketing ebook outline by May 1st (side note: writing outlines help you organize your ideas before tackling a big writing task)

Locke’s Five Goal Setting Principles

Locke’s goal setting theory is centered around five goal setting principles. Adhering to each principle within your goal-setting and goal-achieving process is important for success. The principles are:

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

Clarity: Set Clear and Specific Goals

Set clear goals that are easy to understand and communicate to others. This will save you a lot of time. It will make your business goals easier to go after and increase buy-in from others. For example, a clear goal would be to “write 10 1000-word BBQ recipe articles by March 5th.” This is why SMART goals are so great to use…because of their specificity.

Clear and specific goals are easier to measure and receive feedback on. Goals that are too general (i.e. “blog more” or “do more promotion on social media”) have nothing to point back to for comparing and tracking.

POWER TIP: Determine the key performance metrics that you’ll use to track if you’re doing a good job.

Challenge: Set Challenging Goals

As I noted earlier, setting easy business goals does nothing for you. Remember: challenging goals lead to better performance than easy goals 90 percent of the time. Challenging goals pump you up to go after your goals. But be careful…goals that are TOO challenging for your skills, talents, time and resources can deflate you, so set realistic challenging goals. For instance, writing five 2500-word blog articles about lead generation every week is a nice challenging goal. But trying to commit to writing fifteen 2500-word blog articles every week could be unrealistic (especially if you don’t have a team of writers to help you…and if you have other business-related tasks to work on during the day). The goal is to be motivated and not stressed out, so don’t overdo it.

It’s easier to complete challenging goals if you break them up into smaller sub-goals or sub tasks. I call this process “goal chunking.” This method reduces stress and gives you an opportunity to celebrate small wins along the journey. On that note, think about rewards and incentives for completing a challenging goal (or sub-goal). I reward myself with a little video game playing time (yes, I know…I’m a big kid) for completing a big writing or business task.

Commitment: Commit to Your Goals

Your business and/or content goals must be clear and time-bound.to make them easier to commit to. Brand alignment is another thing to consider. Set business goals that are relevant to your mission, vision, principles and products/services. Setting off-brand business goals won’t motivate you to achieve them (and would you want to achieve them anyway?)

Locke’s goal setting theory changes your mindset and strengthens your commitment muscle through motivation and intentional effort. Effort and persistence are crucial if you’re going to achieve challenging goals.

BONUS TIP: Draw a visual path/flowchart or simply write down a list of steps that takes you from goal setting to goal achievement.Visualization is a useful life hack.

Feedback: Track Your Progress and Get Feedback

Frequently monitor your goals and measure how you’re doing with achieving them. Are you hitting every mark or are you falling behind? You can only know if you need to tweak things or completely change course if you monitor your work and get feedback from team members and customers/clients.

Set aside an hour or two every week to note what has been working and what hasn’t been working based on personal observation and internal and outside feedback. Keep it simple. You can track the progress of your Locke-inspired business goals in a basic spreadsheet. Use the “chunking” method to create milestones for your big goals and incorporate those milestones into your goal-tracking spreadsheet.

Task Complexity: Monitor Goal Difficulty and Complexity

Are your business goals too difficult for you to complete and manage? Or are your business goals not difficult enough? Ask these questions at this stage of your goal-review process.

If you’re struggling with achieving your business goals, chunk up the big hairy goal into smaller SMART sub-goals first. If you’re struggling with your sub-goals, ensure that they are truly specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Motivation, achievement and positive mindset transformation are the goals of Locke’s goal setting theory, not stress and frequent disappointment. Here are some other tips that will help you achieve challenging business goals:

  1. Give yourself more time to complete them
  2. Outsource some or all of the sub-goals
  3. Get more training and education
  4. Don’t worry. Pray (Philippians 4:6).

If you’re reaching your goals (not sub-goals) too easily, I’m challenging you to challenge yourself. Take it up a notch. Make your business and writing goals more challenging. After a while, you will see the fruits of your hard work.

Use Dr. Locke’s Research to Inspire Your Business Goal Setting

Most business breakthroughs start with a dream. Begin incorporating Locke’s goal setting theory into your business by having a brainstorming session. Have a notepad or a Google doc handy for writing or typing ideas for goals. Remember…your Locke-inspired goals must be challenging and all the sub-goals must be SMART!  

Pray for Guidance, Wisdom and Discipline

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

Goal setting is a wise practice. But we all must humble ourselves and rely on God who establishes our steps. There’s a possibility that our plans don’t align with God’s will. Therefore, begin all goal planning with prayer and earnestly seeking God’s will. Pray that He guides you and orders your steps. And when it’s time to get to work, remember to…

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

Put Locke’s goal setting theory into action by setting a big writing goal today. Read about the super helpful 3×3 writing process to help you become a better and more productive writer.

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Founder of InspireFirst and Nao Media.