Goal-setting theory draws on the concept that our conscious ideas guide our actions (Locke, 1968).
So, can we take this premise and apply it to the biggest, most meaningful objectives we could possibly set for ourselves—our life goals? And what would that really mean, in terms of planning and getting on with it?
Locke’s seminal research has given us a good deal to go on when it comes to effective goal-setting. But understanding goal-setting theory is only one step toward crafting personal life goals. In this article, we’ll take a closer peek at some ideas and resources that will help you set out on the right path, and stick at it for success.
Whether you’ve got no clue what you want, or you have a mile-long bucket list, hopefully, there will be something in here to get you motivated.
This article contains:
- What are Life Goals?
- Why Should We Set Goals in Life?
- 5 Examples of Setting Life Goals
- Life Goal Ideas: A List of Goals to Achieve in Life
- The Process and Steps of Setting Life Goals
- How to Find and Determine Personal Goals in Life
- Healthy Goal Setting Objectives and Guidelines
- Planning Life Goals and How to Prioritize Them (Incl. Planner)
- 5 Worksheets for Creating and Setting Life Goals (Incl. PDF)
- How to Track and Evaluate the Status of Your Life Goals: The Role of Accountability
- 11 Strategies and Techniques for Achieving Success
- A Look at Life Without Goals
- 3 Life Goal Apps
- 6 Books on the Topic
- 17 Inspiring Quotes
- A Take-Home Message
What are Life Goals?
Life goals are what we want to achieve, and they’re much more meaningful than just ‘what we need to accomplish to survive’. Unlike daily routines or short-term objectives, they drive our behaviors over the long run. There’s no single psychological definition for them, and they aren’t strictly a clinical construct, but they help us determine what we want to experience in terms of our values.
And because they are personal ambitions, they can take many different forms. But they give us a sense of direction and make us accountable as we strive for happiness and well-being—for our best possible lives.
Why Should We Set Goals in Life?
Lots of us have dreams. We know what makes us happy, what we’d love to try out, and we may have a vague idea of how we’d go about it. But setting clear goals can be beneficial in several ways, above and beyond wishful thinking: here are a few.
1. Setting Goals Can Clarify Our Behaviors
First and foremost, Locke’s Theory of Goal-Setting puts intentions squarely at the center of our behavior (Locke, 1968). The act of setting goals and the thought we put into crafting them directs our attention to the why, how, and what of our aspirations. As such, they give us something to focus on and impact positively on our motivation.
Of course, there are limitations to the generalizability of this finding—simply setting goals won’t drive the actions that lead us to success.
We’ll look at this shortly, but for now, suffice to say that they give us something to commit to. It may not be easy to switch careers, but acknowledge that it’s your goal and you’ll at least be able to choose some appropriate actions (Ajzen, 1991).
2. Goals Allow for Feedback
If and when we know where we want to be, we can assess where we are now, and essentially, we can chart our progress. This feedback helps us adjust our behavior accordingly (and when it’s rewarding feedback, our brains release dopamine, e.g. Treadway et al., 2012). By allowing for feedback, goals let us align or re-align our behaviors, keeping us on track with our eyes on the prize.
3. Goal-setting Can Promote Happiness
When our goals are based on our values, they are meaningful. Meaning, purpose, and striving for something ‘bigger’ is a key element of happiness theory in positive psychology, and the ‘M’ in Seligman’s PERMA model (Seligman, 2004).
Along with positive emotion, relationships, engagement, and accomplishment (which goals allow for), it makes up what we’ve come to known as ‘The Good Life’.
In other words, life goals represent something besides the daily grind. They allow us to pursue authentic aims of our own choosing and enjoy a feeling of achievement when we get there. That said, even striving to be the very best we can sometimes lead to happiness in itself, according to eudaimonic well-being research (Ryan & Huta, 2009; Huta, 2016).
4. They Encourage Us to Use Our Strengths
When we consider what matters the most to us, we can get more attuned with our inner strengths as well as our passions. Charting a course for ourselves is one thing, but using our strengths to get there comes with a whole set of other benefits.
Studies show that knowing and leveraging our strengths can increase our confidence (Crabtree 2002), boost our engagement (Sorensen, 2014), and even promote feelings of good health and life satisfaction (Proyer et al., 2013).
Using them in pursuit of our goals, therefore—even discovering what they are—can be a good thing for our well-being.
5 Examples of Setting Life Goals
Breaking it down a little bit, let’s use examples to see how Locke’s goal-setting theory might work when applied to life goals. As you may have seen elsewhere in our goal-setting articles, positive psychologists tend to draw on (at least) four main findings from his original work and the literature that followed (Locke & Latham, 2002; 2006).
We can then take a ‘nice idea’ and create some examples of setting goals from it. Let’s assume, therefore, that Jamie wants to set goals based on her passion – teaching.
- The more difficult Jamie’s goal, the greater the accomplishment. Challenge, in other words, is important. Jamie could approach her goal-setting with an easy task like “Helping my brother with his homework“, but she will derive a greater sense of achievement if she sets the bar a bit higher. An example here would be, “Become a certified teacher”. At the other extreme, she might try to avoid overly excessive and potentially unattainable goals, like “Starting my own boarding school by the end of the year.”
- The more explicit Jamie’s goal, the better she will be able to regulate her performance. Here, she could specify exactly what she wants to achieve in greater detail: “Become a certified K1 teacher for asylum seekers in Svenborgia”. With more precise details, Jamie can get more explicit feedback on her progress and align her performance accordingly—helping her on the path to achievement.
- High goal commitment comes from setting important, attainable goals. At this point, Jamie has addressed challenge and clarity (or difficulty and specificity) (vanSonnenberg, 2011). She will need to reflect on whether it really matters to her and whether it’s realistic. This is more of a principle and less of a ‘step’. Does she understand what it involves and does it align with her values?
- Jamie needs to ensure she can get feedback to stay motivated. In other words, she needs to be able to look at where she is along the way and compare that to her goal. Has she enrolled in the relevant academic pathway? Has she signed up for professional experience? Or has she achieved those and now she’s getting her Svenborgia work visa? Even better, she could see if someone might mentor her, allowing her more regular feedback on her progress.
- Jamie’s goal should not be overly complex. As life goes on, our goals may change. Jamie might realize at teacher’s college that she wants to redefine the goal. Maybe she now wants to teach in another country and decides to learn another language. Although there’s no harm in reassessing her goals, the main takeaway is that she should not increase the difficulty of her task(s) beyond what is achievable or realistic—or she may become overwhelmed.
Life Goal Ideas: A List of Goals to Achieve in Life
Inherently, life goals need to be meaningful, and meaning is subjective. In that respect, it’s probably more useful to think about categories or types of life goals before reeling off potential bucket list objectives.
According to Kasser and Ryan (2001), therefore, there are two types of life goals, and these relate to our well-being in different ways:
- Intrinsic goals relate to emotional intimacy, personal growth, and helping others. They are believed to be aligned with our needs as humans, reflecting our inherent desire for self-knowledge and more fulfilling relationships (Maslow, 1943).
- Extrinsic goals are more culturally defined and less about our nature as human beings, encompassing things like our physical appearance, social standing, status symbols, and wealth.
Research suggests that intrinsic life goals are related to greater happiness, self-actualization, vitality, and satisfaction with life, compared with extrinsic life goals (Ryan et al., 1999; Niemiec et al., 2009).
But at the end of the day, evidence also shows that the content of our goals may be less important to our well-being than our reasons for pursuing them. Having the ‘right’ reason for goal pursuit—irrespective of the aspiration itself, that is—has been found to contribute to our well-being, and the opposite applies (Carver & Baird, 1998).
Intrinsic Life Goals
These satisfy the needs that stem from being human—including our psychological and self-fulfillment needs, as shown below in Maslow’s Hierarchy (1943).
Source: MacLeod (2018)
Life goals based on the former might include:
- Having a loving marriage or a trusting relationship with your significant other;
- Finding and keeping a healthy work-life balance, with time for friends and family;
- Living with integrity, being honest and open with others;
- Inspiring others through your beliefs and actions;
- Being a great listener so that others can turn to you; or
- Becoming an expert in your field and helping others.
Self-fulfillment needs-based goals could entail:
- Coming up with a new invention that reflects your creative abilities;
- Being a successful entrepreneur and running your own business;
- Creating your own personal brand for your work;
- Graduating with a Master’s or Ph.D. in something;
- Learning a new language; or
- Picking up a ‘hard skill’ and mastering it.
Extrinsic Life Goals
Extrinsic goals aren’t necessarily material, but because they are generally ‘wants’ rather than human needs, they are easier to come up with. They require less self-reflection, for example:
- Owning the very latest Tesla;
- Becoming a millionaire;
- Getting a big promotion or being in a senior position at work;
- Starring in a movie;
- Having your own workshop/studio or
- Visiting every country in Europe.
At the end of this article, I’ve also included some recommended books on setting life goals. Miller and Frisch’s Creating Your Best Life, for one, has many more examples that you’ll hopefully find useful.
The Process and Steps of Setting Life Goals
You can (and easily will) find countless models for goal setting in the self-help literature. But what does positive psychology say about the process and steps of goal-setting? The following framework is taken from the well-known psychological capital intervention (PCI), and it uses three steps: goal design, pathway generation, and overcoming obstacles (Luthans et al., 2006).
1. Goal Design
The first step is to design our goals. When crafting goals, we need to remember the key premise of goal-setting theory—that they are intentions which guide our behavior. They are “targets for mental action sequences” (Synder, 2002: 250).
Ideally, by design:
- Goals should be concrete endpoints. That is, we should be able to measure our success because they are clear and detailed;
- They should be approach-based. This means we should easily be able to focus on moving positively towards their accomplishment, rather than on away from negative outcomes. (“Working toward” rather than “avoiding” something) (Coats et al., 1996); and
- We should be able to break them down into sub-goals if necessary so that we can celebrate little successes along the way (Snyder et al., 1991).
2. Pathway Generation
We now have personally meaningful life goals designed and we can start thinking about different potential pathways for achieving them. Luthans and colleagues’ PsyCap Intervention invited participants to brainstorm multiple pathways without worrying at first about their feasibility. ‘As many possibilities as they could think of’, essentially, and not unlike ‘there are no bad ideas in brainstorming’.
Participants then invited others to weigh in and add to their potential pathways. In the same way, you might ask friends, family, or someone in a mentor-like position to help you come up with ideas on how to pursue your goals. What possible pathways might Jamie take to become a certified K1 teacher for asylum seekers in Svenborgia, for example?
The last part of pathway generation considers inventory pathways: what resources will you need to pursue pathway A, B, or C? Essentially, we refine our potential pathways—we think carefully about what we can realistically expect, and this leaves us with fewer, more viable options (Luthans et al., 2006).
3. Overcoming Obstacles
We have inherent beliefs about our ability to use pathways for goal success—our agency—and these are accordingly termed ‘agency thought’ (Snyder, 2002). This kind of thinking plays a particularly important role when we come up against obstacles, especially unexpected ones, as they can determine whether we pick ourselves up or just disengage.
When setting life goals, therefore, it helps to consider the possible barriers that might arise. Independently, we can self-reflect, thinking about our potential pathways as well as our strategies we might use to deal with them (Luthans et al., 2006). We might do this alone or with others, like in the pathway generation stage, and our focus here is to ready ourselves for contingencies.
Put differently, “What might prevent me from achieving my goal?” and “How could I work through or around this?”
How to Find and Determine Personal Goals in Life
We’ve already looked at the importance of meaningful goals using Seligman’s PERMA model, and we’ve established that personal goals for a ‘good life’ will generally be intrinsic, rather than extrinsic (Kasser & Ryan, 2001). We’ve put it further into context using Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy, and we’ve laid out a 3-step positive psychology framework for the process of life goal-setting, so now it’s about self-reflection.
You will definitely be able to find inspiration all over the place for different possible goals, but because meaning is intrinsic, your answers will be unique. With the aim of discovering your own values and inspiration, have a look at these self-reflection exercises and see what the right questions might be for you personally.
Healthy Goal Setting Objectives and Guidelines
No matter what you’ve set as your life goals, adopt some best practice guidelines to make the whole journey a positive experience. Based on what we have looked at so far, we can draw a few objectives to keep in mind.
- Be realistic. Try to keep things in perspective both when designing your goals and as you work toward them. Research indicates that the best goals are challenging, yet achievable (Locke & Latham, 2002).
- A healthy goal is a positive ‘approach’ goal. Rather than setting negative, avoidance goals that have us working away from certain harmful, averse, or unpleasant outcomes, set yourself positive targets. Depending on whether they are intrinsic or extrinsic, therefore, they might be desirable, enjoyable, or ‘good’ in a deeper sense (Coats et al., 1996).
- Be ready to fail along the way…but don’t let it stop you. Resilience is the capacity to persevere in spite of setbacks, and obstacles are inevitable in some form or another. So as well as accepting this inevitability first up, resilience is a useful skill to develop throughout your journey. How do you plan to overcome obstacles? Can you brainstorm some alternative pathways?
- Involve others. As we’ve discussed earlier, family and friends can be invaluable. Not only do they help us generate ideas, but they are social resources that we can reach out to for support along the way.
- Break them down where possible. Celebrating our wins along the way is the same as celebrating our progress towards a larger life goal. Whether that celebration takes place on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis will depend on your unique aims and the pathway you choose to follow. Nonetheless, research shows that they are critical for momentum and motivation (Amabile & Kramer, 2011).
Planning Life Goals and How to Prioritize Them (Incl. Planner)
So, do you have a million things you want to accomplish? Or even just a couple of goals, but lots of milestones along the way? We don’t really need statistics to understand why writing them down adds some organization to the whole thing, but active planning can also boost our motivation.
Personal Strategic Planning
According to Brian Tracy, author of Goals!, getting from A to B is about personal strategic planning. Quite simply, his suggested approach takes organizational management principles and applies them in the personal realm.
Rather than aiming to maximize return on investment (ROI) as we would in corporate settings, we aim instead to boost our efficiency by reducing the physical, mental, and emotional energy we might waste on the journey. He calls it ‘return on energy’ (ROE).
The idea is to think in terms of human capital. If you like, we can think back to the generating pathways step we described earlier in Luthans et al.’s 3-pronged framework. When refining our pathways, we can think beyond just what’s feasible to reflect on what might also maximize our return on energy (ROE).
Unless walking to every EU country is a life goal in itself for you, might it not be more efficient to fly or take a train? Or, could you take a few extra days on your next business trip? Two very logistics-based examples, but hopefully they illustrate the premise of personal strategic planning.
Prioritizing Life Goals
Prioritization is about identifying the most personally important life goals you’ve designed and written down. The following might help (Collingwood, 2018):
- After you’ve formalized them by writing them down, rank them on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, or whatever works for you. As long as you systematically apply the same ranking system to all of them, the most important ones should stand out.
- An alternative would be to categorize them first into whatever domains work best for them, then rank within each category. What’s your most important health goal? Career goal? The PDF goal-setting worksheets below are full of categories you might find useful, but you are unique, and there’s no one best way to go about it.
- Is it feasible or realistic to focus on the top five goals? Or is three a more viable figure? Highlight, circle, or pick out the ones that are most worthy of your energy—what would make you happiest? What’s most meaningful to you personally, in terms of your values? (Interestingly, billionaire Warren Buffet would have you stick to the top five and avoid the rest.)
- Get planning. What are the sub-goals you’ve identified? What resources will you need for each stage, and when will you need them? ‘Reverse engineering’ goals and working backward from the finish line is helpful for some people (Collingwood, 2018).
- Find a good, but not necessarily the best time to start, as the latter might never come around. Then, use a planner to work it all out. When you’re scheduling, don’t forget celebrations as well as milestones.
Some useful planners include:
- LifeTick – a free or paid online planning calendar;
- GoalScape – which allows you to share your goals and create projects;
- This free PDF, which is more of a planning tool than a calendar; or
- Any of the free Full PDFs here from Passion Planner.
5 Worksheets for Creating and Setting Life Goals (Incl. PDF)
Putting theory into practice is a lot easier with checklists. These life goals worksheets will hopefully be useful to you as a means of getting started.
1. Workbook for Goal-setting and Evidence-based Strategies for Success
Put together by Caroline Miller, The Ultimate Life List Guide author, this is an entire workbook about setting goals and staying on track. It is based on six concepts that come together as a strategy for designing goals and creating optimal conditions for success:
- Finding what enables you to create a happy life;
- Envisioning your best potential self, an intention which will motivate your actions;
- Designing short- and longer-term life goals;
- Cultivating an environment that facilitates your success;
- Developing willpower and habits that support this; and
- Encouraging a mindset conducive to long-term change.
3 particularly useful worksheets in here include:
- The Mission and Purpose Worksheet – this guides you through creating your own personal purpose statement (p. 36);
- The Evaluating Goals Worksheet – over several pages, you can assess how or whether your life goals meet certain criteria for success (p. 40); and
- The Ifs, Ands, and Buts Worksheet – which focuses on overcoming obstacles (p. 67).
2. Goal Exploration Worksheet
Breaking down life goals into different areas can be helpful, and this Goal Exploration exercise provides you with 7 different categories that might stimulate your thinking. With useful prompts, a few tips, and some examples, the layout of this sheet includes spaces for 5-year, 1-year, and 1-month goals.
- Social goals;
- Career goals;
- Physical goals;
- Family goals;
- Leisure goals;
- Personality goals; and
3. Goal Setting Workbook
Starting on Page 7 of this Citrus College workbook, you’ll find useful information about long- and short-term goal-setting. There are brainstorming exercise and categories for your inspiration, such as:
- I want to be…
- I want to learn…
- I want to give…
This is followed as you progress by questions about your goals:
- “Are they achievable?”
- “Does the goal come with an alternative?”
- “Do I want to do what’s necessary to accomplish it?” and
- “Is the goal compatible with my values?”
How to Track and Evaluate the Status of Your Life Goals: The Role of Accountability
We write down our goals to formalize them in one respect, and in another, to give us a sense of personal accountability for their outcomes (Schlenker & Weigold, 1989). If we share those goals with others, we create even more accountability, as we’re ‘answerable’ to more than one person (Schlenker et al., 1994).
The first kind of accountability is internal, and psychologists suggest it motivate us to keep going if these goals are aligned with our personal values (Rutledge, 1998). This is all well and good, but how do we track and evaluate our progress?
Tracking Your Life Goals
First, as discussed, we can identify our goals and create clarity around them. Prioritizing them allows us to channel our focus on the top important goals, and one or more of the planners above will hopefully be useful for this.
We can then break down our larger, key goals into smaller sub-goals or objectives. These might be step-wise milestones, or we might have several alternative pathways running concurrently, but breaking down these goals allows us to plan better.
If you want to set deadlines or time frames for accomplishing each small sub-goal, feel free—this adds another layer of personal accountability and is commonly used in project management contexts.
Set realistic, sufficiently challenging time frames, and you’ll also benefit from a healthy amount of pressure—eustress, in other words (Brulé & Morgan, 2018; Mills et al., 2018).
When you have time-bound goals, therefore, you can better evaluate your progress. And from here, we can adapt or adjust our generated pathways accordingly to maximize our chances at success (Snyder, 2002).
11 Strategies and Techniques for Achieving Success
If it’s all a lot of information to take in at once—or if you’ve skipped ahead—here’s a neat recap. These goal-setting strategies and techniques draw from the literature we’ve mentioned already, starting with Locke and Latham’s work and moving on to what we know about motivation.
Let’s cover the techniques within the three-pronged strategy we discussed earlier for maximum relevance.
Based on what we know, the following techniques help us craft well-designed goals.
- Set intrinsic life goals as well as extrinsic ones. This requires self-reflection on your personal values, as well as your psychological and self-fulfillment needs as a human being (Maslow, 1943). Aligning your goals with what you really consider important will make them more meaningful (Kasser and Ryan, 2001), and meaning is considered a key part of happiness in positive psychology (Seligman, 2004).
- Set approach, rather than avoidance goals. Aim for positive outcomes rather than focusing your psychological, emotional, and physical energy on avoiding negative ones (Locke, 1968; Tracy, 2003; Locke & Latham 2006).
- Make them clear and actionable. Ideally, you should be easily able to break these down into sub-goals after some thought on potential pathways. If you can create concrete steps that lead toward a positive vision of the future, it will be easier to start thinking about resources you might need (Luthans et al., 2006).
- Make them challenging, but keep them realistic. When it comes to outcomes, excessively easy goals won’t motivate you enough and could be boring. Overly challenging aspirations, on the other hand, can lead to stress and overwhelm you (Locke, 1968; Luthans et al., 2006). Similarly, don’t rush yourself in terms of getting started if it’s not necessary, but don’t wait until the time is perfect, either.
These include some brainstorming techniques and ideas about creating the ideal conditions that support your goal pursuit (Miller & Frisch, 2009).
- Brainstorm as many alternative pathways as you can. Think about all the potential ways you might go about achieving your goal and don’t be too quick to discount them. Give your creative brain a workout and record them as you go. This will keep you from forgetting them later down the line.
- Identify the resources you’ll need. What is absolutely necessary for each step along the way? Then, what will make things easier for you? Consider people who might support you as well as more tangible resources (Emmons, 2003).
- Plan out your progress if it helps. Think motivation and accountability, this time applying the eustress principle to the goal pursuit process rather than its outcomes (Frink & Ferris, 1998). Use a planner, an app, or whatever else you find most valuable, and don’t be afraid to adapt your pathway if it’s necessary.
Here, some planning techniques and useful resources from elsewhere on this site, to help you stay on track.
- Plan for potential obstacles. Part of being realistic means planning for contingencies (Luthans et al., 2006). What might stop you from pursuing one pathway and force you onto another? How can you avoid or overcome obstacles through proactive strategizing?
- Use positive self-talk. Our self-talk is very powerful. Preparing proactively for worst-case scenarios helps counter pessimistic self-talk, but your perceived self-efficacy is also critical to goal accomplishment (Schunk, 1990). Hope is very important and positive self-talk plays a key role in overcoming obstacles (Snyder, 2002).
- Develop resilience. Setbacks can take their toll emotionally and lead to disengagement (again, if we let them). It’s possible to develop your capacity to deal with setbacks through resilience training and exercises, so why not try some of these approaches?
- Evaluate your progress. Remember that your priorities might change along the way, so evaluation is not necessarily about success or failure. If you like, tweak your goals—make them more or less challenging, or change their nature as you see fit.
A Look at Life Without Goals
Look up ‘a life without goals’ and you may quickly find yourself surrounded by disheartening clichés like “going nowhere” and “race with no finish line”. But while there are real benefits to goal-setting, is the absence of goals really so terrible?
Essentially, this dives into a more complex philosophical debate. To put it succinctly, though, we can think of happiness as both subjective well-being (SWB) and eudaimonic well-being (EWB)—or hedonic vs eudaimonic happiness.
The first is related to feelings of life satisfaction and the predominance of positive over negative affect, the second premises that life is about the pursuit of virtue and fulfillment of one’s own potential (Ryan & Deci, 2001; Diener et al., 2002).
What do you think?
3 Life Goal Apps
Some apps will help you store your short-term goals in one place, and can be pretty handy if you’ve got objectives you’d like to stay on top of daily.
Goalify is an Android and iOs app that lets you log and review your objectives regularly. As well as sending you updates and reminders, you can compare your accomplishments against friends with identical goals. With this app, you can categorize, tweak, and get tips on how to better accomplish them. And let’s face it, gamification has its merits.
2. Coach.me Habit Tracker
This nifty app lets you do more than just list your goals—it’s pretty effective at keeping you accountable and is simple to use. You can log your targets and view your stats, ask questions of the community, and sync it with other gizmos. The free version is enough if you simply want to start creating a habit, but paid users can also get advice from pro coaches.
It’s only available for iOs devices, but Strides is quite popular nonetheless. This lets you stay on top of your progress for short-term or daily goals, with a calendar function and some more sophisticated stats. If you want to see your progress as averages or celebrate the small wins with time-bound targets, they are all easily accessible from one straightforward dashboard.
6 Books on the Topic
Here are some of the titles we have already mentioned, as well as a few more books that you might find insightful. Some are more ‘how to’-focused, and others cover the psychology of goal-setting theory.
- Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide by Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael Frisch (Amazon)
- Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals by Owain Service and Rory Gallagher (Amazon)
- Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy (Amazon)
- A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance by Edwin Locke, Gary Latham, Ken Smith, and Robert Wood (Amazon)
- New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham (Amazon)
- Goal Setting: A Motivational Technique That Works! by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham (Amazon)
17 Inspiring Quotes
If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.
Mark Victor Hansen
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
William Jennings Bryan
You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis
If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.
You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.
A goal is a dream with its work boots on.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
Goals transform a random walk into a chase.
The important thing isn’t where you’ve been, or where you are, but where you want to go.
Goals are the road maps that guide you to your destination.
An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.
Robert Louis Stevenson
When you know what you want and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’
It doesn’t matter where you came from. All that matters is where you are going.
A Take-Home Message
We all have dreams, but some merit more of our energy than others. When we reflect on the second type of aspiration along with our personal values, we’re already on the way to setting life goals. In this article, we have considered goal-setting theory and some actionable strategies that use positive psychology concepts to frame the whole concept.
We’ve also looked at how human nature leads to intrinsic goals, and how the whole idea fits into well-being. Have you discovered any ideas that you find useful? Or how do you motivate yourself to keep on track?
More importantly, why not share some of your life goals with us in the comments? Let’s get those ideas flowing!
- Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50(2), 179-211.
- Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. J. The Power of Small Wins. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins
- Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822.
- Brulé, G., & Morgan, R. (2018). Working with stress: can we turn distress into eustress? Journal of Neuropsychology & Stress Management, 3, 1-3.
- Campos, D., Cebolla, A., Quero, S., Bretón-López, J., Botella, C., Soler, J., Garcia-Campayo, J., Demarzo, M. & Baños, R. M. (2016). Meditation and happiness: Mindfulness and self-compassion may mediate the meditation–happiness relationship. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 80-85.
- Carver, C.S., & Baird, E. (1998). The American dream revisited: Is it what you want or why you want it that matters? Psychological Science, 9, 289–292.
- Coats, E. J., Janoff-Bulman, R., & Alpert, N. (1996). Approach Versus Avoidance Goals: Differences in Self-Evaluation and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(10), 1057-1067.
- Collingwood, J. (2018). Top Tips for Setting Goals and Priorities. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-tips-for-setting-goals-and-priorities/
- Crabtree, S. (2002). Talent 101: Self-discovery helps students adjust. Gallup Management Journal, 2.
- Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Oishi, S. (2002). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and life satisfaction. In C. R. Snyder & S. J.
- Lopez (Eds.), The Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp.63- 73). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived, 105-128.
- Frink, D. D., & Ferris, G. R. (1998). Accountability, impression management, and goal setting in the performance evaluation process. Human Relations, 51(10), 1259-1283.
- Huta, V. (2016). An overview of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being concepts. Handbook of media use and well-being: International perspectives on theory and research on positive media effects, 14-33.
- Locke, E. A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational behavior and human performance, 3(2), 157-189.
- Locke, L. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.
- Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268.
- Luthans, F., Avey, J. B., Avolio, B. J., Norman, S. M., & Combs, G. M. (2006). Psychological capital development: toward a micro‐intervention. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 27(3), 387-393.
- MacLeod, S. (2018). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
- Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370.
- Miller, C. A., & Frisch, M. B. (2009). Creating your best life: The ultimate life list guide. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
- Mills, H., Reiss, N., & Dombeck, M. (2018). Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/types-of-stressors-eustress-vs-distress
- Niemiec, C.P., Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2009). The path taken: Consequences of attaining intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations in post-college life. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 291–306.
- Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2013). What good are character strengths beyond subjective well-being? The contribution of the good character on self-reported health-oriented behavior, physical fitness, and the subjective health status. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 222-232.
- Rutledge, T. (1998). Earning your own respect: A handbook of personal responsibility. New Harbinger Publications.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 141-166.
- Ryan, R.M., Chirkov, V.I., Little, T.D., Sheldon, K.M., Timoshina, E., & Deci, E.L. (1999). The American dream in Russia: Extrinsic aspirations and well-being in two cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1509-1524.
- Ryan, R. M., & Huta, V. (2009). Wellness as healthy functioning or wellness as happiness: The importance of eudaimonic thinking (response to the Kashdan et al. and Waterman discussion). The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(3), 202-204.
- Schlenker, B. R., & Weigold, M. F. (1989). Self-identification and accountability. In R. A. Giacalone &P. Rosenfeld (Eds.), Impression management in organizations (pp. 21–43). Hillsdale, NJ: LawrenceErlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Schlenker, B. R., Britt, T. W., Pennington, J., Murphy, R., & Doherty, K. (1994). The triangle model of responsibility.Psychological Review, 101,632–652.
- Schunk, D. H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25(1), 71-86.
- Seligman, M. E. (2004). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Simon and Schuster.
- Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., Yoshinobu, L., Gibb, J., Langelle, C., & Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(4), 570.
- Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275.
- Sorenson, S. (2014). How employees’ strengths make your company stronger. Gallup Business Journal, February. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/167462/employees-strengths-company-stronger.aspx
- Tracy, B. (2003). Goals!: How to get everything you want-faster than you ever thought possible. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
- Vansonnenberg, E. (2011). Ready, Set, Goals! Retrieved from https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emily-vansonnenberg/2011010315821