The Impact of Self-Efficacy on Goal Setting

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Self-Efficacy and Goal Setting

Self-efficacy is the ability of an individual to successfully organize and execute a particular behavior needed to produce a specific outcome. The notion of self-efficacy originated in 1977 from Bandura's social cognitive theory. The theory refutes that human behavior interacts with personal factors and the environment hence influencing each other in the reciprocal determinism process. Personal efficacy has a great impact on goal setting in that it serves as an indicator of how an individual behaves or performs and their level of performance has an impact on their beliefs in self-efficacy in the future as well (Schwarzer 2014, p.28). Goal setting is closely related to performance. Individuals should ensure that they set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals. The paper focuses on the impact of self-efficacy on goal setting.

Impact of Goals on Performance

Goal setting theory refutes that goals have an impact on performance through mechanisms such as persistence, direction, strategy development, and effort (Muñoz and Tutistar Jojoa, 2014, p.61). Direction depicts how individuals focus their effort and attention towards the relevant activities in their set goals and avoid engaging in irrelevant activities. It applies in behavioral and cognitive aspects. The effort has a close relationship with high goals since the two result in a greater resolution. The effort put into carrying out a particular task is directly proportional to the requirements of completing a particular activity. Persistence refers to the continuous effort over time, and it is a blend of effort and direction. According to Locke & Latham (2002, p.707), individuals who are well-trained and have specific high-performance goals have high chances of using specific strategies compared to people with other types of goals, and this is likely to improve their performance. Successful goal setting should embrace important characteristics such as clarity, commitment, the level of challenge, feedback, and task complexity.

Characteristics of Self-Efficacy

One of the important characteristics of self-efficacy is that it is situation and task-specific. Its beliefs differ depending on the task an individual is responsible for and the specific situation they require to execute the task (Muñoz and Tutistar Jojoa, 2014, p.61). The beliefs on self-efficacy differ in strength, level, and generality. In strength, it is true to say that individuals with a stronger sense of self-efficacy believe they have a high level of perseverance when exposed to difficult situations, and this increases their chances of being successful. The level of self-efficacy in performing a task depends on how challenging the task is, and generality denotes the ability to transfer beliefs on self-efficacy across tasks.

Self-Efficacy and Goal Progress

Research conducted by Schunk (1990, p.86) reveals that self-efficacy affects goal setting in that individuals involved in a particular task can observe their performance and evaluate their goal progress. From the article, it is clear that individuals who perceive their goal progress as satisfactory tend to feel more capable of attaining their goals and improving their skills. Having a high level of self-efficacy enables individuals to set new goals that are more challenging. Bandura reveals that self-efficacy tends to influence the effort expended when carrying out a task, choice of activities, as well as persistence levels. Individuals who are highly efficacious set personal goals that are challenging while, on the other hand, people who are inefficacious have a propensity to set modest goals (Locke & Latham, 2013, p.36). Individuals with stumpy self-efficacy are likely to keep away from tasks while efficacious ones involve themselves in tasks more. When experiencing challenging situations, self-efficacious individuals tend to put greater effort and are more persistent compared to people who distrust their capabilities. Individuals obtain information on their level of self-efficacy from their performance feedback. Although the information obtained does not automatically influence their level of self-efficacy, it is cognitively appraised. Individuals can conduct efficacy appraisal by weighing as well as contributing their situational and personal factors. While assessing self-efficacy, it is imperative to consider factors such as effort expended, one's ability, task complexity patterns of failure and success, as well as other situational factors.

Self-Efficacy and Behavior

Self-efficacy theory also outlines that personal expectations influence behavior. The concept of self-efficacy also relates to constructs such as self-confidence, perceived competence, and expected success. The generality of constructs is one of the approaches to distinguishing constructs. Even though it is possible to generalize the perceptions of efficacy, they offer a prediction of behavior in specific domains. It is also possible to differentiate between outcomes and capabilities. Self-efficacy denotes the perceived level of capabilities. Many theories emphasize the expected consequences of actions. People differ on whether the expected outcome is dependent on external control or internal control. Although positive expectations of outcomes are important, they do not always decipher behavior. In this, even though people have a positive outcome expectation, they may not achieve their set goals if they have low self-efficacy (Schunk, 1990, p.86). People have high chances of acting if they believe that their actions are likely to produce positive outcomes and if they value the outcome. Self-efficacy theory thus emphasizes the beliefs in an individual's capability to effectively employ their knowledge and skills toward attaining the desired level of outcome.

Self-Efficacy in Sales Performance

According to Fu, Richards, and Jones (2009, p.292), self-efficacy has a great impact on high goals as outlined in the motivational hub model. The impact influences the effort expended on a certain task. Fu, Richards, and Jones conducted a study on the impacts of goal setting and self-efficacy on new product sales and effort. The study aimed to determine the impact of goal setting on the effort expended by salespersons and the level of sales. Using the theoretical framework of motivation's hub, self-set goals, goals assigned by the company, as well as self-efficacy, are in the article modeled as precursors to the expended effort as well as product sales. In this study, data were obtained from 143 respondents and pooled with data from company records. Unrelated regressions assisted in addressing the challenges offered by the data. The results from the study depict that there exists a nonlinear relationship between personal goals and expended effort. The results depict that salespersons put more effort as the level of their goals increases until it gets to a particular point. After reaching the said threshold, the effort for sale decreases with goal increase. Data obtained reveals that personal goals, the company-set goals, and effort expended have an impact on the new sales in the future.

Self-Efficacy and Entrepreneurship

Salespersons who are independent and have high self-efficacy tend to set high goals, and thus have a positive impact on their level of performance. Individuals with high self-efficacy also have high confidence in their abilities, and they are more willing to put in a lot of effort in pursuit of achieving their goals (Fu, Richards, and Jones 2009, p.292). Failure to achieve one's goals is in the article attributed to a lack of individual effort. One can easily overcome failure through persevering. There is a need to conduct more research in the future on the relationship between assigned goals and efforts expended.

Commitment and Persistence in Goal Setting

Commitment and persistence are important aspects of goal setting. As the goal gets harder, more persistence and committed are essential to assist individuals in meeting these goals. In entrepreneurship, some entrepreneurs can persist in the efforts expended in their ventures, while others quit in the process. A research study conducted by Cardon and Kirk (2015) illustrates that self-efficacy plays a great part in driving persistence. It examines the relationship between self-efficacy in the long-term and persistence using data from 129 entrepreneurs. Results from the study illustrate that passion fosters the connection between self-efficacy and persistence for inventing rather than the passion for developing businesses. Persistence greatly assists entrepreneurs to focus on their set goals and to remain committed to them despite the difficult situations that they come across in the process. Self-efficacy thus affects goal setting in entrepreneurship by driving persistence, hence helping entrepreneurs to sustain their entrepreneurial actions.

The Negative Impact of Self-Efficacy on Goal Setting

Self-efficacy may also have a negative impact on goal setting. Since entrepreneurs have a high level of self-efficacy, they have high chances of setting highly ambitious goals for their ventures (Baron, Mueller, and Wolfe 2016 p.71). Although challenging goals are imperative, setting overly challenged and unattainable goals leads to reduced motivation and discouragement hence decreasing the level of performance. Research findings by Baron, Mueller, and Wolfe on their article on the adoption of unattainable goals by entrepreneurs and self-efficacy depict that self-control can help in dealing with the inclination to set unattainable goals. Self-control is a significant part of self-regulation and is capable of encouraging entrepreneurs to ensure that they set realistic yet difficult goals. The results from the study depict that an increase in difficulty in a goal is positively related to performance. However, on reaching the threshold, increasing difficulty affects performance negatively. The research findings reveal the importance of self-regulation among entrepreneurs in their performance.

Self-Efficacy and Goal Achievement

Self-efficacy and expected achievement in set goals affect each other equally. Wäschle et al. (2014 p.114) conducted a study on how students react to personally-assessed low goal achievement. The study took 19 weeks and had 150 respondents, all university students, and they recorded procrastination, self-efficacy, and the expected achievement of set goals during the self-monitoring protocols conducted every week. The study assessed the connection between the achievement of set goals and procrastination, as well as expected achievement and self-efficacy. The results show that high procrastination leads to a low achievement of set goals, while high self-efficacy contributes to a high level of attainment of set goals. The achievement of set goals increases self-efficacy. The study also depicts that a low self-efficacy contributes to the procrastination trend.


To sum up, it is clear that self-efficacy has a great impact on goal setting as it indicates the performance or behavior of an individual, and the level of performance has an impact on an individual's belief in self-efficacy in the future. The beliefs on self-efficacy differ regarding strength, level, and generality. The difficulty of a task, level of perseverance, and the transferability of beliefs across tasks greatly affect the chances of being successful. Individuals should also learn to exercise self-regulation, for instance, self-control, to avoid setting highly ambitious goals, as they have a negative impact on performance.


Ballesteros Muñoz, L. and Tutistar Jojoa, S., 2014. How Setting Goals Enhances Learners' Self-Efficacy Beliefs in Listening Comprehension. How, 21(1), pp.42-61.

Baron, R.A., Mueller, B.A. and Wolfe, M.T., 2016. Self-efficacy and entrepreneurs' adoption of unattainable goals: The restraining effects of self-control. Journal of Business Venturing, 31(1), pp.55-71.

 Cardon, M.S., and Kirk, C.P., 2015. Entrepreneurial Passion as Mediator of the Self–Efficacy to Persistence Relationship. Entrepreneurship theory and practice, 39(5), pp.1027-1050.

Locke, E. & Latham, G., 2013. New developments in goal setting and task performance. New York: Routledge.

Locke, E. A, & Latham, G. P., 2002. Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.

Schunk, D.H., 1990. Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25(1), pp.71-86.

Schwarzer, R., 2014. Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Taylor & Francis.

Wäschle, K., Allgaier, A., Lachner, A., Fink, S. and Nückles, M., 2014. Procrastination and self-efficacy: Tracing vicious and virtuous circles in self-regulated learning. Learning and instruction, 29, pp.103-114.

January 19, 2024



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