For many years we have all heard and read about the need to set goals to achieve success in our life, but often we are not directed into setting the correct goals or in fact why and how they work. This article will highlight 10 principles and explain why goals work.
To understand why setting goals work will help us to devise the most effective goals to apply to the specific demands of our work, sport or life in general.
Goals provide motivation
Goals influence our performance in 3 distinct ways: Firstly, by directing our attention to the task and the relevant cues in the competitive environment. Athletes feel that goals help them focus on the task at hand. Secondly, they direct effort and increase persistence by continually comparing the result at the end with the position at the start. Thirdly, goals affect performance through relevant learning strategies that are developed. To focus upon a task and to feedback the results and learn from the results enhances motivation to succeed and do better.
Goals behaviour regulation
Goals work because self-regulation involves generating thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are planned and adapted to personal goal achievement. This self-regulation includes a planning phase, before the efforts of the task begin, an execution phase where self observation and control behaviours occur throughout the task and an evaluation phase where comparisons are made and new learning introduced for the next cycle. It has been scientifically proven that elite athletes will use self-regulation more than the non experts, thus acquiring better results.
Goal Setting Principles
From the above you would think that all that has to be done is set some goals, record the results and learn from them, however, the following 10 principles will show how diverse influences can contribute to the effectiveness of your goal setting.
1. Goals must be specific. Research has shown that specific goals produce higher levels of performance than generalised ones. Goals such as do your best and enjoy will not produce the same results as striving for a specific goal that can be measured.
2. Goals must have a different term. You must set short term as well as long term goals. Long term goals focus your attention into the future without a clear understanding of how to get there. Short term goals will bring your focus back to the here and now and these goals will drive you towards your long term goals.
3. Set training as well as competition goals. To acquire the right motivation is often easy for the competition or battle but ignored for the training part of your job or sport and remember that training will often account for 95% of your time, so its important to set training goals to achieve motivation levels equal to those in the heat of battle.
4. Ensure goals are challenging but realistic. They must be achievable to stop de-motivation, frustration and lowering of confidence levels but not too easy to implant a false result.
5. Set process, performance and outcome goals. Often we only set outcome goals such as gaining promotion or winning a gold medal without focusing on the short term process or performance goals that will take us to that outcome achievement.
6. Write it down and make it visible. Often the goals stay in your head and are not written down. Evidence suggests that if others see your goals it encourages social comparison and support which is motivational to your success.
7. Set team goals as well as individual ones. If you are part of a cell or team then it is good to have your own goals as long as they do not take precedence over the team goals. Your goals should support those of the team and in fact on achievement should ensure that your individual goals are accomplished.
8. Develop strategies to achieve your goals. Do not set goals without the strategies to achieve them. For instance if you wish to make more sales in your job then you will need strategies such as contact more clients, change your script and offer better prices. If you implement these 3 strategies then you will achieve your goal of more sales.
9. Get significant others on board with your goals. This can include spouse, family, coach, manager etc. The social support will spur you on in the form of encouragement, pep talk or a vote of confidence.
10. Always provide or receive feedback. This is essential to monitor how you are doing and whether your efforts are channelled in the right areas. This feedback can help with the learning phase of the task and bolster motivation and energy levels.
Now that you understand how goals work and have the principles for setting correct goals there is a perfect opportunity to implement them into your life from today. As an introduction to the process there is an activity below that will start you thinking about the introduction of correct goals.
Activity For You
Think of an activity in your job, life or sporting activity that you wish to improve. On a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is nowhere and 10 is perfect performance) log the reading of where you are now. You should now list the number on that scale where you wish it to be. You will have identified a performance gap say between 9 and 5 leaving you a portion of 4 that can be narrowed through successful goal setting and achievement. List 5 strategies that on activity will diminish that gap and help you achieve your outcome. I promise you that if you follow this activity with the correct strategies then your performance will improve and you will feel better about the whole process almost immediately.
Until next time
Geoff Greenwood FCCA MBA MSc
Geoff is a sport and business performance psychology consultant who has developed a video based course that can be accessed 24/7 from any computer that you can view at your own pace that teaches the 12 core mental skills areas for optimal performance that anyone can implement and improve upon from today.
As a very special bonus for our readers he is including a personal one to one email coaching answer to your performance questions that you may have whilst on your success journey.
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