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Goal Setting with Intention

As the weather finally cools and 2017’s arrival draws ever nearer, many of us may have already started planning New Year’s resolutions. This ritual can be lots of fun, a way to puzzle out how, precisely, we will be an even “better” future version of our selves. We may decide to finally cut out sugary soda drinks, dedicate ourselves to a weekly yoga practice, promise to volunteer time each month; the list of possibilities is endless and various. Absolutely unlimited. Each New Year represents a blank slate, a tablet on which we may inscribe new accomplishments, memories, and desires.

However, selecting those resolutions is frequently easier than maintaining them. How many of us begin strong, valiant, and seemingly infallible? We confidently rush into January without handicap and yet, somehow, some way, we lose momentum. We slip up. We sneak a soda here, miss a yoga class there. Those “slip ups” may lead us to become discouraged. No one is alone in this, rest assured!

Here at TOPPS, though, we believe there is a reason new goals are difficult to overcome: the underlying intention behind said goals. We encourage readers to first select a desired outcome (be it physical health, improved sense of self, or increased social interactions) and, only then, a resolution that will lead to said outcome (exercise regimen, volunteer organization, sports team). We understand finding the outcome may be the easy step. The difficult part is learning how to effectively set goals and maintain motivation. Check out the theories below for help in that regard; they each discuss effective ways to set goals related to your motivational needs.

1). Health Belief Model (HBM)- this is an avoidance theory and encourages us to pick resolutions that eliminate undesirable outcomes (i.e. quitting smoking to avoid lung cancer, limiting excessive sugar intake to avoid diabetes). The intention here is to avoid something unpleasant through alternative action (Hochbaum, 1958).

2). Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)- this theory dictates that individuals pick goals based on the value carried by said goals. Usually these resolutions are based on subjective/social norms regarding a particular behavior (i.e. if an individual is friends with regular exercisers, that individual might resolve to also exercise regularly since this activity is valued by their friends) (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). This theory also states individuals must feel a high level of behavior control; i.e. they feel equipped with necessary resources (for example, if you live in a town without a gym, you are not likely to self-impose weekly gym visits).

3). Self Determination Theory (SDT)- the SDT is based on type of motive…are you intrinsically motivated in that you set goals for personal satisfaction/enjoyment? Or are you extrinsically motivated in that you set goals to confirm a sense of self or out of obligation/to gain reward? (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Psychology research indicates that intrinsic motivation has far longer lasting results compared to extrinsic motivations.

4). Self-Efficacy Theory- goals set under this theory are typically ones in which we are confident we will succeed. If a resolution is determined under the self-efficacy theory, our perseverance is stronger in the face of struggle and we may put in larger effort. For example, if you were a college athlete and, now graduated, hope to continue your sport at a master’s level, you are more likely to triumph (i.e. ‘I did this sport once, I can do it again’) (Bandura, 1982). Bandura believed we build self-efficacy by working on tasks that we excel at so that we build confidence by experiencing success. When we are confident, we are more open to trying out new challenges to enhance our personal growth.

Here at TOPPS we encourage our readers to utilize one of the above theories to assist in reaching new goals in 2017. Each presents an opportunity to analyze what you truly want. We look to develop goals with an underlying desired outcome, we look to develop goals with intention.

Best wishes from us here at TOPPS and a very happy New Year!


Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37,


Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (in press). Theory-based behavior change interventions: Comments on

Hobbis and Sutton (in press). Journal of Health Psychology.

Hochbaum, G.M. (1958). Public participation in medical screening programs: A social-

psychological study. Public Health Service, 572.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic

motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.

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