Goal-Setting Theory Can Help With Your Success — Here’s How

6 minutes read -
Tatiana Azman
Written by
Woman writing down her goals using the goal-setting theory.
Table of Contents
Highlights: There’s a goal-setting theory that helps with productivity and efficiency. Discover what it is and how it can apply to you for a more fulfilling life.

Identifying goals has been ingrained in us since our youth. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” are common goal-oriented questions many of us have been asked (or asking ourselves).

Some of us have been able to reach them. Others aren’t so successful. And the latter often give up, chalking it up to the inefficiency of goal-setting and setting off in their life adventure without a compass.

However, it’s not that goal-setting doesn’t work. Rather, it’s that they’re unaware of the goal-setting theory.

So what is it exactly? And how can it help you go from aimlessly wandering through life to finding your North Star? Here’s what to know about it:

As Jon Butcher, founder of Lifebook, says, “Goals are instructions to yourself. Setting goals pulls you forward toward the object of your desire.” And the goal-setting theory can help you get there.

Man using the goal-setting theory to write down his goals on his laptop.

What Is a Goal-Setting Theory?

Specific and measurable goals are more effective than unclear ones — that’s the idea behind goal-setting theory. It comprises five principles to better direct people in achieving their desired outcomes. 

While it’s more commonly referred to as Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory, it’s actually a collaborative research between psychologist Dr. Edwin Locke and his colleague, Dr. Gary Latham. They spent quite a few years of their lives examining why goal-setting worked so well for some people and not so well for others. Additionally, they wanted to know how to redefine one’s goal statement to work optimally for everyone.

The 5 principles of Locke’s goal-setting theory

Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation outlines the five principles to achieve goals successfully:

  1. Set clear goals. This would be more along the lines of, “I am going to lose three pounds per week for three months” or “I will start running a mile every morning.” One way to help you set clearer goals is to use the popular SMART goals mnemonic: specific, measurable, achievable, measurable, and time-bound.
  1. Set challenging goals. Try to set a goal that will challenge and motivate you but not completely wipe you out. 
  1. Commit to your goals. Write it down, do a vision board, or perhaps even tell a trusted friend your goal to seal in the commitment.
  1. Get feedback. It helps to gauge your progress — if you are moving along well, this can be very motivating and if you’re not, this realization can also be very motivating.
  1. Consider the complexity of your task. When goals are too complex, reaching them can begin to feel overwhelming, and you may become anxious. It is easy to push yourself hard, but that misses the point. Before committing to completing some task, it is very important first to consider its complexity.

The combination of all five helps encourage achievement and stay motivated.

3 Goal-Setting Theory Examples by Mindvalley Experts

The goal-setting theory doesn’t come in one. Like flowers, there’s a variety to choose from — each with its specialty.

The thought of that can be overwhelming, for sure. So, here’s where you can start: the following three examples encompass all five principles listed in Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation. And because they’re guided by Mindvalley trainers, each example focuses on different areas of expertise that can help you level up in various aspects of your life.

1. 3 Most Important Questions

The 3 Most Important Questions (3 MIQs, for short) Quest on Mindvalley was created to optimize the traditional goal-setting methodology. 

Creator: Vishen, founder of Mindvalley

Principles: This goal-setting theory focuses on end goals — those that are right for you, not those dictated by social expectations. It encourages you to identify your authentic passion and vision, providing the momentum to make your goals happen.

Best for: Those looking for clarity in life, to get unstuck, and to create perpetual growth in their career, mission, and passions.

Start here:

The 3 most important questions by Vishen | New Mindvalley quest trailer – Video

2. The Power of Boldness

Sometimes, just sometimes, our dreams are limited to what we know. But what if we could dream something so bold that it isn’t even in existence yet? Like those who dreamt of flying amongst the birds, sailing with the whales, or going to the moon.

That is the power of boldness.

Creator: Naveen Jain, visionary entrepreneur and founder of Moon Express, InfoSpace, and Viome, to name a few.

Principles: It’s time to rethink your thought patterns and models of reality because The Power of Boldness Quest encourages you to create and realize your Moonshot idea — a venture or project so powerful that it transforms your organization and community, or even the planet. With Naveen’s guidance, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to disrupt the status quo.

Best for: Those who inspire to be amongst the visionaries, like Elon Musk, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malala Yousafzai, Miki Agrawal, and Naveen himself. They seek the unshakeable motivation, clarity, and vision to dream that big, glorious dream.

Start here:

Naveen Jain on how to make your mark and change the world – Video

3. Lifebook

When it comes to setting life goals, most people will go straight for health, wealth, career, and relationships. As it turns out, there are many more areas — 12, in fact — to include to shape a successful, happy, and fulfilling life. And that’s where Lifebook Online comes in.

Creator: Jon and Missy Butcher, founders of Lifebook

Principles: Goals that are generic or too wishy-washy are often chucked after a few attempts. However, goals that are crystal clear are more likely to get achieved. And that’s the whole basis of Lifebook Online.

Instead of saying, “I want this and that” or “This looks good, let’s go with that,” this program urges you to truly look at every dream, every desire, and every goal you really want and capture as a personal vision statement in your Lifebook. It’s literally your personal blueprint for life.

Best for: Those looking to identify the vision for who they want to become, what they want to do, and how they want to live.

Start here:

4 Questions to Discover Your Life Goals in Every Area | Lifebook Masterclass Trailer – Video

Things to Consider When Choosing a Goal-Setting Method

We’re all unique in our own ways, and the method by which we set our goals should be, too. What works for one person may not work for another.

With this in mind, what goal-setting theory should you choose? Here are a few things to keep in mind to create a life you love:

  • Identify what you’re trying to achieve. Some goal-setting methods are specific, and some are less so. So it helps to be as detailed as possible.
  • Make sure it excites you but doesn’t burn you out. Pay special attention to how your set goal makes you feel. Motivated? Excited? If it doesn’t make you feel motivated or excited, reconsider.
  • Ensure you have the necessary resources. This can include a fitness tracker for your health goals, a journal to brain dump or for gratitude, or some sort of app that provides you with daily positive affirmations
  • Join an accountability group. When the going gets tough, an accountability group can boost morale. It’s a circle of trust, sort to speak, that helps you keep your eyes on the prize.
  • Have incentives in place. Rewards are powerful motivators — it gives you something to look forward to, which helps you follow through with your tasks. So do something for yourself whenever you reach a milestone or a specific goal. 
Women in hijab using the goal-setting theory for their business.

Don’t Just Dream It, Do It

There’s beauty in dreaming about what life could be like without any limitations. But it’s even more beautiful when you’re able to live it.

By setting goals that resonate with you, you allow yourself to see the world with eyes wide open. And if you need help doing so, you can turn to Mindvalley, where experts like Vishen, Naveen Jain, and Jon and Missy Butcher are ever-so-willing to guide you to a life of wonder.

The great thing is, you can sign up for a Mindvalley account (for free, of course) to get a sneak peek of lessons from each and every Quest on the platform. Plus, Mindvalley is known for its community, so you can be amongst like-minded individuals with whom you can create an accountability group. 

Your goals aren’t impossible. All it takes is one step at a time. And Mindvalley can be your first.

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Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.

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