Goal-setting guidelines

Hopefully Roy won't mind if I post this. I think it goes well with the topic of some of the threads on this forum.

This post is based on a chapter from a college text book one of my professors let me borrow. It is a textbook to a class on Motor learing and Skill development. The text basically talks about how the body learns and masters physical skills.

The name of the text is "Motor Learning: Concepts & Applications" by Richard A. Magil

"Goal-setting guidelines: Try to apply each guideline to a motor skill learning or performance situation in which in might be involved.

1. SET OBJECTIVE GOALS. Goals should be in the form of a number, or some similar objective, to provide the student or performer with an objective means of evaluating his or her own performance. We have seen evidence that the statement "do your best" falls short in its effectiveness as a motivator when compared to a SPECIFIC objective goal.

2. SET GOALS THAT ARE MEANINGFUL. A goal must have meaning to the person. It will be a more effective means of motivation to indicate to a student that to make 6 out of 10 shots in a basketball goal shooting task is an above average score than to simply say, "try to make 6 out of 10," The performer not only needs an objective goal to strive for but one that is meaningful to him in order to provide an immediate point of reference for performance.

3. SET GOALS THAT ARE OBTAINABLE. While goals that are almost unattainable may lead to performance increases early in a performance experience, as in the Nelson (1978) study, failure to achieve these goals during a series of attempts will tend to lead to poorer performance than when realistic goals are used. Consideration must be given to the level of achievement that is desired by the individual. some goals are attainable only through maximum effor, while others are attainable with little effort.

4. SET GOALS ACCORDING TO INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES. Since both past exeriences and personality of the individual are intricately interelated to the effectiveness of goal setting, the instructor must determine goals for each individual. While the coach or teacher realizes that the goal can be reached only if maximum effort is exerted, the student of performer may not be aware of this or may not wish to exert a maximum effort for fear of not achieving the goal.

5. SET GOALS ON THE BASIS OF PAST EXPERIENCES. Goals will fit many of these guidelines if they are established in terms of past performances. The goal should be objective, it should be meaningful to the individual, and it should be individualized. Whether or not it is attainable is up to the individual and the instructor. The instructor or coach should not just "pull a number out of the air" as a performance goal. The instructor must be alert to what the individual has done in the past, not only in terms of performance but in terms of amounts of improvement associated with those performance levels.

SUMMARY: Goal setting, or level of aspiration, is potent form of motivating individual behavior in both performance and learning situations. Research evidence has shown that when objective goals are presented to individuals, their performance in motor skills can be expected to be superior to performance when no specific goal has been provided. The commonly used phrase "do your best" does not result in as great a performance improvement as does a specific goal. The level of aspiration that an individual will establish in a situation can rekated to the personality of the individual and the individual's past experience of success or failure in ataining goals. Specific guidelines have been presented to assist the instructor or coach in effective use of goal setting as a means of motivating the performance and learning of motor skills.

(edit for grammar and spelling corrections)


-Locke, E.A (1968) Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3 157-189

-Locke E.A., Cartledge, N, & Koeppel, J (1968). Motivational effects of knowledge results: A goal-setting phenomenon? Pychological Bulletin, 70, 474-485

-Nelson, J.K (1978). Motivating effects of the use of norms and goals with endurance testing. Research Quartly, 49, 317-321

-Weinberg, R.S (1982). Motivating athletes through goal settting. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 53 (9), 46-48

Here are some well known and common acronyms for goal setting used in the world of athletic coaching and physical training:


S - goals must be SPECIFC

M - training targets should be MEASURABLE

A - goals must be ADJUSTABLE

R - goals must be REALISTIC

T - training targets should be TIME BASED

E - goals should be challenging and EXCITING

R - goals should be RECORDED


S - goals must be SPECIFIC

C - within the CONTROL of the athlete

C - goals must be CHALLENGING

A - goals must be ATAINABLE

M - training targets should be MEASURABLE

P - goals are PERSONAL

Here is the most commonly used principles use in fitness or conditioning training:


F - FREQUENCY - how often

I - INTENSITY - how hard

T - TIME - how long

T - TYPE - the type of training (strength, endurance, etc)

Source: www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/articles/scni3al.htm