Setting Good Goals in Business: How SMART Goals Propel Us to Take Action and Work Harder


When you start each day, do you begin with a plan or do you just get up and start moving?

What about when you take a trip? Do you start with a destination in mind and then use a map or GPS to get from where you are to where you want to go?

And how about with life—your personal life and your professional life… Do you create and follow a plan to achieve the things you want to accomplish, or do you just “wing it” and hope you somehow make it to your desired outcome?

In any of those examples, you will not ever achieve as much—or accomplish as much—without some sort of plan for moving from Point A to Point B.

That is the major reason setting goals—and setting goals properly—is so important for both personal and professional success.

But just “deciding” on an objective, without thinking about it strategically and intentionally, is not enough. And even when you do set “good” goals, that’s not enough either.

In order to realize the full power of setting goals on productivity, achievement, and even your personal well-being, you need to develop a well-thought out plan as well.

When goals are set properly, with incremental steps based on sound science for achieving those goals, the results can be astounding. Yet, what does that mean—“…When goals are set properly?”

First, let’s talk about the benefits of goal setting so that we know why exactly setting good goals—and developing that roadmap to get from here to there—is so important.

Benefits of goal setting:

  1. Goals affect our behavior—propelling us to take actions to achieve our goals
  2. Goals affect job performance—setting challenging goals, say experts, actually makes us work harder and performer higher, overall
  3. Energy creation—experts also say setting and pursuing goals creates something called “activation energy”—a forward-momentum form of “extra energy” that is created by activity and provides the motivation and drive necessary to successfully pursue and achieve the results you really desire

So, how do we set those “good goals”—goals that propel us to take action, that make us work harder and perform higher, and that actually create more energy that helps motivate us during the pursuit of goals?

You’ve may have likely heard before that you should set SMART goals. Setting SMART goals refers to a goal setting theory that says goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

But why all the attention to SMART goals? Why do SMART goals work?

SMART goals work say goal-setting experts Locke and Latham, because they provide the necessary framework for goals that improve our well-being, help us achieve objectives in life and business, and that provide forward momentum personally and professionally as well.

However, Locke and Latham contend that it’s really the core principles behind the HOW goals are set that can make goals so powerful. Those specific factors in their theory are:

  1. Clarity. This means setting goals that are clear and specific, eliminating any potential for confusion over the outcome.
  2. Challenge. “Good goals” should stretch your mind and your talents—making you think and perform BIGGER.
  3. Commitment. Commitment, they contend, is very important. If you don’t commit to your goal with intensity and consistency, it’s less likely you’ll achieve it.
  4. Feedback. Feedback helps you know what you’re doing right and how you are progressing in general. Working in a feedback process while pursuing goals also helps you identify when course correction is need.
  5. Task Complexity. Good goals should be complex enough to motivate you to start and to keep going when challenges arise.

Those are the basics of setting good goals. But… how important is it that you actually achieve the goals you set?

Well, Locke and Latham answer that by explaining that it really depends on how ambitious your goals were when you set them. In essence, the harder your goals are, the harder you will work to achieve them, and the more likely you are to feel good about the process.

In our next article, we will explain more about exactly why that means and why it’s important to your success!