Skills for setting and pursuing goals

Scale: Global scale of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation (SOC)

What it measures:

  • Youth goal-directed behaviors.

Intended age range: 10- to 18-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 9 items. Youth are asked “How much do each of these statements describe you?” Sample items include: “When I decide upon a goal, I stick to it,” “I always pursue goals one after the other,” and “I keep trying as many different possibilities as are necessary to succeeding at my goal.”  Each item is rated on a 5-point scale from Not at all like me  to Very much like me.

Rationale: This scale was selected based on its brevity, ease of administration, appropriateness for use with school-aged youth, and evidence of good reliability and validity.

Cautions: This measure is based on the selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) model. The original scale used forced choice as the response format. Research suggests that forced-choice and Likert-type formats of this measure produce similar results; however, additional validation of this measure is needed as this set of items has not yet been examined with the Likert scale response format. This response format is recommended for greater ease of use.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (Not at all like me) to 5 (Very much like me). The total score is the average across all items.

How to interpret findings: A higher score reflects a greater level of goal-directed behavior.

Access and permissions: This scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and upon request from the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. A ready to use format is also provided here.

Alternatives: The Goal Orientation—Adolescent scale is a 7 item self-report scale that measures an adolescent’s motivation and ability to make viable plans and take action toward achieving desired goals. This measure is a good alternative for programs interested in assessing the frequency of goal-setting/pursuit behaviors. The measure and its documentation can be found here.


Citations: Gestsdottir, S., & Lerner, R. M. (2007). Intentional self regulation and positive youth development in early adolescence: Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. Developmental Psychology, 43, 508–521. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.43.2.508

Geldhof, G. J., Gestsdottir, S., Stefansson, K. K., Johnson, S. K., Bowers, E. P., & Lerner, R. M. (2015). The selection, optimization, and compensation questionnaire: The validity and reliability of forced-choice versus Likert-type measurement of intentional self-regulation in late adolescence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 39, 171–185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0165025414560447

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