A Roadmap For Effective Goal Setting - Tips - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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goal setting

A Roadmap For Effective Goal Setting – Tips

Goal setting has universal application – career, health, love & life in general. Today’s modern society constantly encourages us to ponder upon the next milestone. What is lacking, however, is the strategy of how to accomplish these goals. This article will serve as a roadmap for effective goal setting.

According to experts, goal setting is the act of selecting a target that you wish to achieve. However, the real challenge is not determining the outcome; it’s willing to embrace the sacrifices required to achieve your goal. The fact is everybody aspires to win a gold medal; however, few people wish to undergo the rigorous training like an Olympian. Hence, goal setting isn’t just about selecting the rewards that you wish to enjoy, but also the price that you are willing to pay.

Goal Setting 101 – Where You Wish to Go?

The goals that you set act like the rudder on the boat. They help to establish the direction and determine where you go. Apart from the rudder, another element which is even more significant are the oars. If the rudder acts as your goal, then the oars are the process for achieving the goals. The rudder determines your direction while the oars determine your progress. While goals help to set the direction, systems determine the actual progress that you are making. It is as simple as you cannot reach anywhere by just holding on to the rudder. Let’s take a look at the strategies to use while setting goals.

1. Organise Your Priorities

Psychologists believe one of the biggest barriers to achieving goals is the pressure and ‘conflict of interest’ of another goal. In other words, your goals may be competing with one another to get your time and attention. Whenever you set to pursue a new goal, you automatically tend to shift your focus and energy from your other goals. When faced with situations like these, all you need to do is to re-organise your priorities a little. You will realize that when you do, so progress becomes faster, as now you are totally committed towards a goal that was otherwise getting only moderate attention from your end previously.

What often appears like a goal setting problem is actually a problem of selecting and prioritising the right goals. You do not need bigger goals; instead, you need better focus. Also, goals need to be consistently pruned and trimmed down. It is natural for new goals to show up in our lives and for us to be excited about them. Hence, when such a situation shows up, we must prune away a few of our goals and create the space that we need for our new goals to blossom fully

2. Set Implementation Intentions

Research has shown that you are much more likely to stick to your goals if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to perform the behaviour. For instance, according to one of the studies conducted by scientists, they asked people to fill out this particular sentence: “During the next week, I will spend at least 20 minutes exercising on <day> at <time of day> at/in <place>. Researchers realised that people who filled out this were much more likely to actually exercise sentence compared to a control group who did not formulate any such specific plans. This is also known as habit stacking. To utilise habit stacking, fill up this sentence: After/Before <PRESENT HABIT>, I will <NEW HABIT>.

For instance, before I take my morning coffee, I will do 15 minutes of meditation. According to researchers, habit stacking seems to work, because you are not only creating a specific plan for when and where you will be implementing your goals, but you are also linking your new goals to something which you are already doing every day. Implementation intentions and habit stacking help in moving the goal from our heads to a specific process that will help in making it a reality.

3. Setting an Upper Limit

When we set goals, we are much more focused on achieving the minimum threshold limit that was set by us. For instance, an individual says: “I want to lose at least 4kg this month”. How would this same goal appear if you go ahead and add an upper limit to it? For instance, “I want to lose at least 4kg this month, but not more than 6kg”. Setting an upper limit makes it easier for you to sustain your minimum progress and continue ‘showing up’. Whenever you set a new goal and start working towards it, the most important thing is showing up. If you do not build the habit of showing up, then you won’t have anything to improve in the future.

Achieving Your Goals Consistently

Quite often we set the right goals within the wrong system. The daily grind against your system will challenge progress. Hidden forces make our goals either easier or harder to achieve. If you wish to make progress in the long run, you need to align your environment with your ambitions. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies which can help you to achieve this.

Ways in which You Can Align Your Environment with Your Goals

While most of us have the liberty to make a wide range of choices at any given moment, we often tend to make our decisions based on our environment. Many of our decisions that we make in our personal and professional lives are shaped by the options that we find around us. For instance, if you tend to sleep with your cell phone next to your bed, then checking social media updates and emails as soon as you wake up is obviously going to be your default decision. Similarly, if you walk into your living room, and all the furniture is facing the television, then watching television is going to be your default decision.

Scientists are of the opinion that environmental defaults can impact our decision making. This is known as choice architecture. Whether or not you achieve your goals in the long term is dependent on the types of influences that surround you in the short-term. It is quite challenging to stick with positive habits in a negative environment.  Listed below are a couple of strategies which are useful while trying to design better default decisions:

Eliminate Options when in Doubt

It is indeed challenging to eat healthy when your kitchen is filled with junk food options. Similarly, it is much harder to focus on reading a single blog when you have ten different tabs open in your browser. Hence, in such situations, when in doubt, you must eliminate options.

Use Visual Cues

You may have noticed that certain supermarket items are placed at eye level to make them more visually appealing so that they are more likely to be purchased. Similarly, you must also utilise visual cues to create an environment that visually nudges your actions in the right direction.

Opting Out Vs Opting In

A famous organ donation study revealed how multiple European countries increased their organ donation rates. They needed citizens to opt-out of donating organs rather than opt-in to donating. Similarly, you can plan to opt out your future self into better habits ahead of time. For instance, you can schedule your yoga session for next week while you are feeling motivated today. When your workout rolls around, you need to justify opting-out instead of motivating yourself to opt-in.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

One of the keys to making long term progress is to measure the progress of your goals. The human mind is wired for feedback. If you can view and track your progress, motivating will be positively reinforced. Hence, it is so much significant to measure the progress of your goals for effective goal setting. By measuring the outcome, you gain insight on whether you are making progress. The things you tend to measure are the things that you improve. By tracking figures, you get an idea if you are getting better or worse. For instance, when you measure how many pushups you did, you just got stronger. Similarly, when you tracked your reading habit of 20 pages per day, you end up reading more books. You must measure to discover, to find out, and to understand if you are indeed showing up. You need to measure to see if you are spending time on the things which are important to you.


Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect