Proximal Goals Lead To Higher Performance
The famous psychologist Anthony Bandura, perhaps best known for his research on social cognition, conducted a study in 1981, where he investigated how the temporal distance of goals, affected children performance om math quiz.
40 children between the ages of 7-10, all of them showing a disinterest and low performance in maths, compared to their age group, underwent a short learning program. The only difference between the children, where that they were put in to three different groups with either near-term math goals, long-term math goals, or no goals at all. The children of course could write down their own goals, as long as they adhered to the description of goals they were assigned to.
Interestingly, the results showed that the children defining short-term proximal goals - goals that they could potentially achieve within a short span of time, showed considerably improvements in their math skills compared to their peers. They also seemed to have gotten a higher sense of self-efficacy within math, compared to the other groups at the end of the course.
Maybe most impressively, those same children seemed to express a heightened intrinsic interest in math - compared to the others. It seemed as if intrinsic motivation - something known to lead to a whole array of health benefits, developed rather than was constant within the children.
This study gives hope to the notion that meaning and interest in ones life can be built, by tailoring feedback that is instant, personalized and important to the individual in question.
Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(3), 586–598.https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2066