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The importance of setting goals

7 May 2020 11:07 PM | Lesley Samms (Administrator)

Do you ever feel like you’re sleepwalking through life with no real idea of what you want or where you are going?

Perhaps you know exactly what you want to achieve, but have no idea how to get there or you are simply overwhelmed by the prospect.

That’s where goal setting comes in.

Goals are the first step towards planning for the future, and play a fundamental role in the development of skills in various facets of life, from work to relationships and everything in between.

They are the targets at which we aim our proverbial arrow.

In the words of Pablo Picasso:

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.

And in the words of Benjamin Franklin:

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

So, what is Goal Setting?

Goal setting is a powerful motivator, the value of which has been recognised in a wealth of clinical and real-world settings for over 35 years.

‘Goals,’ as defined by Latham & Locke (2002, p.705) are “the object or aim of an action”

According to Locke (2019) “Every person’s life depends on the process of choosing goals to pursue; if you remain passive you are not going to thrive as a human being.

Locke & Latham goal setting theory is based on the premise that conscious goals affect action and that conscious human behaviour is purposeful and regulated by individual goals.

Therefore, we must decide what is beneficial to our own wellbeing and then set goals to achieve it.

So, why do some people perform better on tasks than others? 

The key is motivation. The more we achieve the more we become motivated to achieve more and bigger.

Goals give us control over the future outcome of our lives…

The key principles of goal setting are;

1. Commitment – the more committed or invested you are the more likely you are to succeed.

2. Clarity – Goals need to be clear and specific

3. Challenge  - they must be challenging but attainable

4. Complexity – the timescale must be relevant to the complexity of the goal

5. Feedback – reporting and learning

Goal setting is especially important for artists as it is closely associated with achieving flow state. Setting clear goals that are both challenging yet within your skill level is a powerful contributor to finding yourself in ‘the zone’.

Have you heard of SMART goals?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebased. SMART goals help focus our efforts and increase the chances of achieving our goals. And don’t forget the importance of rewarding yourself when you achieve your goals.

Why does Goal Setting Work

When done correctly, goal setting is effective and often critical to success.

Goals give us direction by focusing attention on goal-relevant behaviour and away from irrelevant tasks (Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992).

Miner (2005) suggested that goal setting works through three basic propositions:

  1. Goals energize performance through the motivation to expend the required effort in line with the difficulty of the task.
  2. Goals motivate people to persist in activities over time.
  3. Goals direct people’s attention to relevant behaviours, and away from behaviours which are irrelevant, or detrimental to the achievement of the task.
What are the Disadvantages of goal setting?

If employed incorrectly, goal setting has the potential to cause rather than solve problems.

Goals can present with threat of negative consequences, leading to stress and anxiety as an outcome if not attained.

Also if there is a conflict between two or more goals, performance with respect to each goal may be undermined (Locke, Smith, Erez, Chah, & Shaffer, 1994).




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