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Goal is an incentive or outcome that one wants to achieve in the nearest or further future. A goal develops as a result of particular physiological, psychological, and environmental circumstances and usually requires some efforts and stamina to be reached. All goals have some common features but differ in relation to the circumstances that provoked them and the level of importance for every individual.
To begin, goals may arise of different circumstances and reasons. Mainly, people set goals when they want to achieve more than they currently have. It may also originate from the desire to achieve more than others, in particular in the situation of work competition. Thus, striving for a sense of achievement, a person is highly inspired to do better than competitors. Secondly, the goal may arise from affection when a person sets a goal inspired by his or her emotions. It must be said that some goals may naturally originate from the needs. For example, the goals may develop as a result of physiological demand for food or come from some psychological needs. The last ones may vary a lot; for example, a person may be driven by the need to love or a need to be loved, but also a need for attention, recognition or cognition. Interestingly, people may also set goals in order to evaluate or even challenge themselves. In such a way, a person is testing self-efficacy regarding particular knowledge or skills (Deckers, 2001). Many goals may also appear when being activated by the environment. Consequently, such goals are provoked not by personal, but some outside circumstances. Finally, as long as people are social beings, they affect each other’s goals. For example, a person makes demand from others as a personal goal.
Naturally, goals are different and depend on a personality of an individual who sets the goal. However, some common characteristics can still be outlined. Firstly, all goals have their level ofimportance and difficulty regarding its accomplishment. High-level goals, which in fact are the incentives of the highest priority, are the most important for a particular individual while difficulty refers to the efforts that should be taken in order to achieve it. In such case, a particular goal will depend on the skills and knowledge of a person and the possibilities for further improvement. Another common characteristic of any goal is its specificity, which determines how concrete and clear the goal is. It is extremely important that the goal is clearly stated and visualized, as only a clear goal will lead to a certain action plan. It should be noted that goal level is closely interrelated with goal specificity. High priority incentives perform energizing function by stimulating a person to put as much efforts as possible to achieve a goal. Such characteristic of a goal as its specificity has a directive function, which directs an individual towards a particular plan of actions.
Obviously, goals directly influence the human lives. In fact, they are the force that moves people throughout their life. As long as goals are complex and require some planned actions and efforts to achieve them, they motivate an individual to do something. The thing is that the cognitive realm of motivation is the undeniable element of any goal. A person should realize the importance of a goal and its significance for him or herself. Besides, the goal will also require evaluation of all the chances and possible obstacles, then designing a plan of steps and actions, and, finally, following the plan. For example, one studies at university to achieve the goal of getting a diploma and then finding a good job. Later, the one works hard, because he or she pursues a goal to save money or get promotion depending on the original reason of the goal. It also provokes such a notion as a negative goal when a person knows what he or she does not want to happen for sure. A negative goal will be an opposite outcome to the one that is desired. Thus, even a negative goal motivates a person to take some actions in order to avoiid undesired outcomes. On the other hand, when one does not have a goal, he or she is getting bored and loses interest in any activity. Therefore, a real goal will have both positive and negative sides.
It was proved that people are more motivated to achieve the goals that have higher priority status. Besides, motivation becomes stronger as one comes closer to achieving the actual goal. At the same time, the desire to get positive features and avoid negative ones becomes stronger as well (Lacke & Latham, 2002). Finally, when a goal is achieved, it will usually bring a sense of personal achievement, professional recognition, and some additional bonuses like product endorsements. As a result, if he or she manages to reach a goal, self-satisfaction increases as well as self-efficacy. However, goals usually include an element of risk. Therefore, there is always a possibility that the plan will fail and the goal will not be achieved. In such case, it usually leads to the inner frustration of a person and lowering of his or her self-efficacy. Contrary to the situation when a goal is achieved and self-satisfaction increases, in the case of failure, there appears the sense of self-dissatisfaction. It may later lead to setting new goals or getting disappointed. Thus, goal-setting may have both positive and negative effects.
To conclude, a goal is an incentive that has the highest priority for a particular individual. It may arise as a result of various reasons and circumstances such as level of inspiration, affection, environmental influence, testing self-efficacy, and other people’s pressure. Naturally, goals will differ a lot due to the fact that people are different. Depending on a person and his or her skills, a goal will have different level of priority and difficulty regarding efforts needed for its achievement and the goal’s specificity. Overall, regarding the success or failure in the goal achievement, it may result in self-satisfaction and increased self-efficacy or have an opposite effect.