Goal setting as a strategy for health behavior change

Health Educ Q. 1995 May;22(2):190-200. doi: 10.1177/109019819502200207.


This article discusses the beneficial effects of setting goals in health behavior change and maintenance interventions. Goal setting theory predicts that, under certain conditions, setting specific difficult goals leads to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, nonquantitative goals, such as "do your best." In contrast to the graduated, easy goals often set in health behavior change programs, goal setting theory asserts a positive linear relationship between degree of goal difficulty and level of performance. Research on goal setting has typically been conducted in organizational and laboratory settings. Although goal setting procedures are used in many health behavior change programs, they rarely have been the focus of systematic research. Therefore, many research questions still need to be answered regarding goal setting in the context of health behavior change. Finally, initial recommendations for the successful integration of goal setting theory in health behavior change programs are offered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Goals*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Life Style
  • Motivation
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Participation