Updated: Mar 18
by Jill West - Jill West Coaching
There is a lot being talked about setting goals right now. We are being told we must have goals to be successful. But what are goals and why are they the key to your success?
History of goal setting
Modern theories around goal setting were developed by two gentlemen Edwin Locke and Gary Latham. In 1990 they published the paper "A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance." They concluded that for a goal to be effective it must have 5 elements.
Clarity. The goal must be clearly defined and understood by everyone involved in the process
Challenge. The goal must be hard enough to represent a stretch to reach it. It is the stretch they argue that provides the motivation to go for it.
Commitment. Everyone involved in the process must be 100% committed to achieving the goal
Feedback: There must be time set aside to analyse the progress and to make changes to allow the final goal to be realised.
Task complexity. It is important to understand the obstacles to success for example how much time will be needed what skills will be required, are there any anxieties or limiting beliefs holding you or the team back from success.
Therefore goals which are specific and challenging whilst still being realistic and time- bound are more likely to be achieved than vague goals such as "do a good job" or "just do your best" This framework is where the acronym SMART originated from. SMART is a way of remembering that if goals are to be effective they should be:-
What are goals and why set them?
Sir John Whitmore in his best selling book Coaching for Performance states that there are two types of goals an end goal and a performance goal.
The end goal is the vision of where you want to go or be in life. Examples might be to swim the channel, in my case buy a dream home or become the sales director of the company. These can be less SMART and more visionary.
The individual performance goals are the level of performance you will need to achieve in order to attain the end goal. So in the case of swimming the channel, there will be a number of training steps (goals) you will need to achieve if you are going to be strong enough to perform well. For example, you will need to be able to swim x miles in x amount of time by x date in open water. Sir John Whitmore also argues that goals should be PURE which stands for:-
I think it is important to consider the implications of this. If you look at the case study for Facebook their big goal has been "To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”. This big goal has been positively communicated internally and externally to customers and employees it has been understood and has been relevant to the growth of Facebook. Unfortunately, this big goal was not ethical and failed to consider the impact of connecting people. It has allowed people who would not normally have been able to connect to spread hate and evil by forming a community inside Facebook. In response the big goal has now been revised by Mark Zuckerberg to consider what happens after people have been connected. The big goal has now been revised to be more ethical to "The most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.” So this serves to illustrate that when you are setting goals it is important to consider are all the boxes of the acronym PURE being ticked.
I was asked recently " how many goals should you set for yourself?", I think this is an interesting question. For me, its all about the one big goal and then setting yourself smaller SMART goals to align with it, The only caveat around this is to make sure that you consider the impact of your one big goal on all areas of your life. As with the Facebook example, the ethics of the one big goal had not fully been considered. So it is for you. If you are in business and you set yourself the goal of making £100,000 a year just make sure that it not detrimental to other areas of your life. When you are setting your big goal, consider the areas which are important to you. Friends, family, health, and well-being. By going all out how will it impact on these areas of your life. Is it possible to build in smaller SMART goals to take care of all areas of your wealth, happiness and well-being? You don't want to be in the situation where you focus on your wealth goal only to find your health has suffered and your family have left you.
Using your mindset to help you achieve your goals.
In coaching, we use a number of techniques to help our clients change their way of thinking. One of my favourites around goal setting is to invite my clients to visualise the future where you have achieved your big goal. But not to see it as somewhere you need to get to. Instead to change your perception and see it as somewhere you have arrived at and are coming back from. This change of perception will mean you can ask yourself, what did I do to get here? How do I feel, who did I meet along the way, what have I achieved? By adopting this mindset you are thinking and experiencing life from a place of accomplishment and it will allow you to see your way back to where you were when you started your journey. This is in contrast to viewing your goals as somewhere you need to get to. This can lead to feelings of overwhelm and many people are inclined to give up even before they have started as they view their goal as a mountain too big to climb.
So you have set your big goal and considered the series of smaller goals you will need to take in order to achieve it. Your goals are SMART and PURE. so what is next? Allow a degree of flexibility around achieving your big goal. It is important to have a plan but just don't discard any new approaches or experiences just because they were not on your original plan. If your big goal is going to take years to achieve your approach to getting there may change considerably over time.
To achieve the success you want It is important to set one big goal which is PURE and aligned to all your needs, wealth, health, and family. Then to set smaller SMART goals to ensure you are performing at the level you need to in order to achieve the big goal.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about the "Law of attraction" and manifesting what we want. For me, I did manifest our forever home but I did it by being 100% committed to my big goal and every action I took was aligned to achieving my big goal.
Whether you write your goals in a book, put them on a spreadsheet, or display them on a vision board the key to achieving them is to take action every day which is aligned to your big goal. Without action, nothing will happen!
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