The Ten Elements of Goal Setting: Attributes of Success & Productivity

The Ten Elements of Goal Setting: Attributes of Success & Productivity
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Aiming High with the Right Mindset

How much do we really understand about goal setting? Developing a deeper understanding of the concept will get us into the right mindset as we strive to reach for our dreams and aspirations.

Know these ten basics to help you succeed: (1) motivation, (2) specificity, (3) challenge, (4) strategies, (5) direction, (6) commitment, (7) effort, (8) persistence, (9) significance, and (10) feedback.

(1) Motivation

Motivation should be innate and come from within, so that the urge to reach a goal will not be easily affected by factors over which you have no control. Incentives can spawn motivation–but what happens if said incentives do not meet your expectations?

Motivations are drivers that spur us into taking action in order to achieve an aspiration or ambition. As human beings with natural human behaviors and tendencies, our motivations are often founded on financial rewards and long-term benefits.

Motivation is one thing but it should be anchored on a specific goal.

(2) Specificity or Exactness

800px-Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

In goal setting, there should be a clear definition of what you want to achieve and why you perform the tasks that you do or have to do. You know that they are a means to attain an ambition or a target, but motivations should not be muddled with the concept of incentives. The latter tends to be applicable for short-term goals.

As an example, let’s consider a student who’s pursuing a four-year college degree and has set his sights on a certain career because of its high-paying opportunities. He perceives that landing a job in that particular career field is his ultimate goal.

But what if the job market becomes saturated with aspirants, so much so that its viability as a lucrative job decreases? Will you still be motivated if you are that student?

In analyzing the motivations that drive the student to finish his college degree, his underlying motive is actually geared at realizing economic or financial benefits and not the career or job position itself. By being clear that your real objective is to improve your financial conditions, you will naturally explore other employment opportunities available.

For as long as you exert best efforts to acquire and master the learning disciplines of your college course, it becomes clear that attaining a lucrative occupation is always possible. By becoming an employee who possesses the potentials and credentials for career advancements, the positive results will include salary increases.

(3) Challenging or Difficult Initiatives

390px-US Navy 030510-N-5862D-537 Recruits from Division One Seven Four strain on the rope during the tug-of-war portion of the Captains Cup athletic competition

Psychologists believe that for goal-setting initiatives to be effective, they should have some level of difficulty or challenge. Tests of strength, knowledge and skills that you can successfully hurdle will give you the confidence to face other challenges that await you.

Liken the experience to any virtual role-playing computer game. Your ultimate goal is to defeat the most evil of all adversaries or what the kids would call “The Boss”. You start with the easy or novice level and move on through several stages by tackling different challenges, which get more difficult at every level.

However, instead of feeling frustrated by the initial defeats, you will be able to move on to the next level by applying certain techniques or strategies. The more you advance, the more intense your excitement and anticipation of the challenges that will further test your skills.

(4) Strategies or Techniques

400px-Goals affirmation poster, Navy · DF-SD-04-09850

Strategies or techniques are tools that you will always need as the means for attaining goals. Why else do businesses and sports teams go into analyzing, planning, forecasting, modeling and testing processes?

Strategies are formulated by first analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, but not with the intention of finding excuses for your lack of ability or for basking in the glory of your potency. Once you have pinpointed the areas where you are lacking in skills, your next move is to find remedies or solutions.

Initially, your aim is to achieve competence as this will enable you to practice, train and enhance until you reach proficiency and expertise. In knowing your strengths, your course of action is to find methods of reinforcements, maintenance and preservation, because you need them to achieve your goals.

However, strategies should also take into considerations the legal, ethical and humanitarian factors because they present detriments that could cause ineffectiveness of the techniques and methods you intend to apply.

(5) Direction

800px-Focus affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-13266

All goal-setting endeavors focus on two paths of directions; one path goes upward while the other goes forward. It’s not about always taking the straight and narrow route, because that would mean limiting your growth and development as an achiever.

Direction is about taking risks that are relevant to the attainment of your goal, which you are prepared to tackle. You know for sure that after overcoming the challenges, it will elevate your position by at least one, if not several notches. Otherwise, if you are reluctant to test the waters to find out how far you could go, you will remain stagnant and unmoving in your safety zone.

Knowing the direction to which you’re headed can prevent you from being sidetracked, as this could hamper you from taking more steps forward toward the completion and achievement of your goals.

(6) Commitment

Courage is contagious

The element of commitment is heightened once you become battle tested and weary from all the risks, defeat, and the tests you encountered and faced along the way. Commitment is about building an image of integrity on which others could rely in times of trials and adversities.

Individuals who have a strong resolve to be steadfast often manage to stay on top through good and bad times. Those who lack courage or renege on their words tend to fade away into the background, because they no longer find the support and encouragement they need during tough times.

By staying committed to a goal, a project and, in some cases, a relationship, the outcomes are often positive, which will eventually allow the fulfillment of aspirations and ambitions.

(7) Effort

400px-Success affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-10432

Part of being committed is the willingness to exert effort—mentally or physically. Hard work would be the exact example of effort that is physically exerted. Your awareness that nothing in life can be achieved without raising even a finger will open your mind to the value and positive results brought about by hard work.

However, there is also the matter of haphazard efforts, which often result in mediocrity of results achieved.

Mental effort is forbearance or self-control, wherein emotions that are left unchecked or unrestrained could also affect each of these major points.

(8) Persistence

380px-KEEP A-GOIN’ by Frank Lebby Stanton 1c

Persistence is what you need if all efforts seem to fail.

Inasmuch as you are committed, it follows that you are also armed with persistent efforts to see all procedures through for as long as they will lead to the success of targeted goals.

Persistence is a virtue, but it should also be applied logically or rationally. Persistence means the willingness to push through, but this does not mean stubbornness in employing a strategy that has already been proved to fail.

(9) Significance

400px-Freedom affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-09863

It is important that the goal you will set for yourself is significant not only as a personal matter but to the people around you, starting from your family, your employees, associates, your investors and possibly extending to the entire community.

The greater the number of biological lives–whether those of men, animals or nature–that will benefit from the achievement of your goal, the more likely that you will attract positive forces of energy.

A classic example of significance is that of Google’s goal to lord over the Internet. One of its strategies has included the free tools that millions of people can use. Today, the company has not waned in providing Internet users with free applications; hence they continue to attract positive feedback and support.

(10) Feedback

400px-Customer Care affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-09849

Feedback holds its own importance among the essential considerations for setting goals, because it serves as one of your performance metrics. It doesn’t matter if feedback is positive or negative inasmuch as it will serve as guidelines on how you can improve or enhance your strategies.

It also presents counter-checks against issues regarding the strategies you use to achieve your goal, as they may adversely affect other people.

Destructive feedback presents challenges and can be used as motivation. Take comfort in the message of an old adage about human behavior and the envious tendencies that stem from ineptitude and failures:

“People who throw stones at fruit-bearing trees are those who have limited capacity or resources to acquire the fruits by decent or ethical means. Be glad if these kinds of people throw stones at you, because they have taken notice of your ability to bear fruit.”

As a recap of all the ten elements of goal setting, always be motivated by the significant effects that will positively impact those around you. This only indicates that the carefully directed strategies, which you applied with full commitment, effort and persistence, have led you to the realization of your ultimate and specific goal. Once you achieve something that is worth noticing, it is likely that you will elicit both positive and negative feedback.


  • Image by : Emijrp – Courage is Contagious / Wikimedia under public domain
  • Image by : Isaac G.L. Freeman - Freedom affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-09863 / Wikimedia under public domain
  • Image by : Mitch Fuqua – Customer Care affirmation poster, USAF / Wikimedia Commons under public domain
  • Image by : J. Finkelstein --Maslow’s hierarchy of needs / Wikimedia CCA-SA 3.0 Unported
  • Locke, Edwin A., and Latham, Gary P. American Psychologist. Vol. 57: Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-Year Odyssey American Psychologist. Vol. 57: (9) September 2002, pp. 705-717 -
  • Image by: Frank Lebby Stanton KEEP A-GOIN’ /Wikimedia Commons under public domain.
  • Image by: Mitch Fuqua – Goals affirmation poster, Navy ../ Wikimedia CCA-SA License.
  • Image by : -Chart for uni motivation /Wikimedia Commons CCA-SA 3.0 Unported
  • Image by : Dave Ahlschwede Success affirmation poster, USAF · DF-SD-04-10432 / Wikimedia CCA-SA License
  • Image by : Dave Ahlschwede - Focus affirmation poster, USAF / Wikimedia CCA-SA License
  • Image by: U.S. Navy photo Chief Photographer’s Mate Chris Desmond – Recruits from Division One Seven Four strain on the rope during the tug-of-war