This article extends currently reported theory and practice in the use of learning goals or targets with students in secondary and further education. Goal-setting and action-planning constructs are employed in personal development plans (PDPs) and personal learning plans (PLPs) and are advocated as practice within the English national policy agenda with its focus on personalisation. The article argues that frameworks widely used for goal setting and action planning by UK educational practitioners, in particular SMART targets or goals, have yet to be rigorously examined in the light of relevant theory and practice. Doing so is important given contemporary emphasis on the dimensions of the learner experience regarded by ‘learning to learn’ practitioners as underpinning effective learning in the modern classroom. The article draws from social cognitive theory and achievement goal theory, including Zimmerman's criteria for appropriate goals, to suggest an alternative framework for goal or target setting – ‘well-formed outcomes’, a construct from the field of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). In comparison with SMART targets, the authors argue that well-formed outcomes offer a more rigorous and holistic approach, by taking greater account of the learner's identity, affective dimensions (feelings and emotions), social relations and values, as well as encouraging mental rehearsal.