What is goal setting?

graduationGoal-setting is the process of taking active steps to achieve your desired outcome. Maybe your dream is to become a teacher, musician or physical therapist. Each one of these dreams involves setting and reaching small (and big!) goals. Each of these major goals can be broken down into smaller, more attainable goals that will propel you towards success.

There are three types of goals- process, performance, and outcome goals.

  • Process goals are specific actions or ‘processes’ of performing. For example, aiming to study for 2 hours after dinner every day . Process goals are 100% controllable by the individual.
  • Performance goals are based on personal standard. For example, aiming to achieve a 3.5 GPA. Personal goals are mostly controllable.
  • Outcome goals are based on winning. For a college student, this could look like landing a job in your field or landing job at a particular place of employment you wanted. Outcome goals are very difficult to control because of other outside influences.

GS relationship

Process, performance, and outcome goals have a linear relationship. This is important because if you achieve your process goals, you give yourself a good chance to achieve your performance goals. Similarly, when you achieve your performance goals, you have a better chance of achieving your outcome goal.

General Goal Setting Tips

  • set both short- and long-term goals
  • set SMART goals
  • set goals that motivate you
  • write your goals down and put them in a place you can see
  • adjust your goals as necessary
  • Recognize and reward yourself when you meet a goal

Set SMART Goals

Set all three types of goals- process, performance, and outcome – but focus on executing your smaller process goals to give you the best chance for success!


  • specific – highly detailed statement on what you want to accomplish (use who, what, where, how etc.)
  • Measurable- how will you demonstrate and evaluate how your goal has been met?
  • Attainable- they can be achieved by your own hard work and dedication- make sure your goals are within your ability to achieve
  • Relevant- how does your goals align with your objectives?
  • Time based- set 1 or more target dates- these are the “by whens” to guide your goal to successful and timely completion (include deadlines, frequency and dates)

Goal Setting Handout – Center for Performance Psychology

Applied Exercises

Goal Setting Worksheet

Goal Setting Worksheet – Center for Performance Psychology

Articles on Goal Setting

Goal Setting Videos

This video discusses goal setting  by the Academic Success Center at Oregon State University.

This video teaches you how to set short term weekly goals.

This video demonstrates goal setting one step at a time.