What is goal setting?
Goal setting is the process of understanding, shaping, and solving the tasks necessary to achieve a certain outcome. As a rule, goal setting means planning, whereby one major goal — the result - is broken down into a succession of smaller goals. In this way, a step-by-step system of actions gets built. Goal-setting methods are equally applicable to both career and personal life, as in both cases, they increase a person's efficiency and contribute to their personal or professional development.
Goal setting theory
The American psychologist Edwin Locke proposed the goal-setting theory and published an article entitled 'Towards a Theory of Motivation and Task Stimulation' in 1968. In it, Locke wrote that employees who know their goals are more motivated and bring more profit to the company. This theory also overlaps with the classical theory of motivation in many ways.
According to Locke, the main component of a good goal is its complexity. The more difficult the task a person faces, the harder he works and develops his skills. Also, according to his theory, feedback on the goal results greatly increases satisfaction.
In this theory, understand the goal as the endpoint towards which all movement gets directed. The movement itself must meet four principles:
- We do what is good for our well-being.
- We independently plan all the steps necessary to reach the goal.
- We know how to achieve the goal.
- We adjust our activities to circumstances and discoveries during the process of goal setting.
The benefits of goal setting
Goal setting is one of the few techniques that has absolutely no disadvantages. But it has many advantages! For example, having clear life goals allows you to:
- Focus on a specific path and thus minimize resources.
- Gain personal satisfaction.
- To remain motivated even in long-term projects.
- Set priorities efficiently.
- A better understanding of one's expectations, needs, and desires.
- Develop awareness, which enhances the quality of life.
- Make decisions more easily and quickly, and deal with crises situations more easily.
- Realise your potential and ambitions.
- Painlessly deal with failure.
- Master time management.
Types of goal setting
It is possible to distinguish goal-setting types depending on the specifics of the goal itself, namely:
- Process goals are activities that get stretched over time, do not have a fixed timeframe, and must get done regularly. For example, the goal is to learn Japanese for two hours a day or to do ten push-ups every morning. Such goals are completely under a person's control and may transform from a common goal into a habit.
- Performance goals are the achievement of a certain personal standard or milestone fulfilling a clear criterion related to personal or professional growth — for example, a goal of passing an exam with a score of hundred. These goals are also controllable by the one who sets them but may get complicated by external circumstances (a damaged relationship with the teacher, which may cause lower grades, etc., deliberately).
- Final objectives are specific fixed results that get achieved only once. After which a new objective — as a rule, a bigger and more complex one — automatically appears — for example, the goal of getting a promotion. Such goals are not fully independently controllable because they are often dependent on outside influence and decisions.ъ
The three types of goals are also often interrelated. So, when you achieve a process goal (you start learning Japanese regularly), you automatically achieve a performance goal (you start interacting better with Japanese partners and making better deals). That, in turn, leads to achieving the ultimate goal (becoming head of the department).
SMART goal setting
SMART is an acronym that focuses on how to set goals for people to reach. Some experts believe that psychologist Paul J. Meyer developed this concept in 1965. Nevertheless, for the first time, this definition was first mentioned only in 1981 in a profile magazine Management Review, which dealt with ways to help people achieve their goals in life more easily and quickly. Thus, the basis of SMART is concretization and detailing, which should make the goal clear, transparent, and understandable.
SMART includes the following criteria based on the mnemonic:
- Specific. A detailed description of a goal with answers to questions like who, how, where, why, etc.
- Measurable. How will you know if you have met your objective? How will you measure your results and progress?
- Achievable. Is the goal realistic? Is it within your capabilities?
- Relevant. Are your goals aligned with your possibilities, desires, and current circumstances?
- Time bounded. What time frame do you have to reach this goal?
For example, you want to lose weight. A SMART goal would be to lose 25 kg by the 4th of December this year through working out at the gym with trainer Jim to alleviate my health problems. I will know that I have reached my goal when I lose 25 kg, and I will measure my progress by weight, general well-being, and the opinion of a professional trainer.
How to set goals and achieve them
If you want to know how to set goals, check out the following versatile guide for goals of all specifics and complexity:
Step 1: Visualize the result
The first step in setting goals is to imagine the impact that the goal will have on your life. What you'll gain, experience, how it will manifest in practice, etc. To do this, ask yourself:
- What do I want? Is this really what I want?
- Is it important enough for me to spend so much of my time and effort on it?
- Is it something I wouldn't give up under any circumstances?
If you answered "No" to even one of these questions, it's worth reconsidering — you may not need this goal. Also, if you already have a list of goals, you should choose only one of them, as it is not possible to achieve several goals at once with the same efficiency. In case of an urgent need, you can combine them into one so that they constitute the very chain of the relationship of a process goal, performance goal, and end goal. However, don't forget to prioritize.
Step 2: Use SMART goal setting
Don't forget that one of the principles in goal setting is its relevance, and it is measurable, realistic, specific, and time-bound. Using SMART will make your goal more precise, focused, and effective.
Step 3: Develop an action plan
The chances are that your desired result is too big to achieve in one step. That's why breaking down a global goal into smaller goals is vital to achieving your main aim step by step. That creates a step-by-step plan: a starting point from which you begin, a sequence of specific actions and tasks to be completed to achieve the global goal, and an end point representing the goal. Finally, you can visualize this plan in roadmap format and hang it in a prominent place, so you don't forget the necessary route.
For example, your main goal is to buy a cottage by the sea. You cannot just go and do it now. How do you break down this goal into small steps? For example, as follows (in sequence): take online courses in professional skills, get a promotion, grow to the head of the department, save a million dollars, look at offers in the real estate market, and buy a house — the more detailed the path to the goal, the better.
Step 4: Set deadlines
Any goal should be strictly time-bound. Deadlines keep you energized and motivated and add realism to your goal and help you plan your schedule more effectively. The more urgent your goal feels, the faster you will achieve it.
Step 5: Get into Action
It's important not to get stuck in one of the above steps. Don't try to think everything through minute by minute — life is unpredictable, and your plan can change in the process. Be prepared to adjust. You may need to take an extra step between the other two, or maybe you'll find a shorter route to your goal. The key is to stay on track and start moving as soon as you know exactly where you want to go.
Step 6: Take stock of your progress
It's important to measure your progress, stay motivated, and reward yourself regularly to keep your spirits up. First, try to identify differences between your past situation and your current one. Then, review your progress weekly, noting gains in all areas, the amount of work accomplished, steps successfully closed, and decisions made in the process.
Tips for reaching your goals fast
To optimize your path and resources, you can also include the following steps in goal setting:
- Visualize. Put together a so-called vision board with pictures that represent your ultimate goal and place it in a prominent place, e.g., near a mirror or on a refrigerator door. Special apps on your phone will also work.
- Find a mentor. Anything is easier when you do it under someone else's supervision and learn from their experience. You can find a mentor to help you develop the skills you need for your goal or ask a friend to monitor your progress. Share your plans and objectives, brag about your victories, talk about your failures, and be involved in the process in any way you can. That makes it much harder to give up, as it fosters a sense of responsibility.
- Move from the simple to the complex. When breaking a goal into stages, it's important to consider its size and complexity. Start with something simple that will take a few minutes or an hour to complete. Say, going through a list of job openings to find a new job isn't that scary or difficult, right? You can also swap out equivalent steps if a step is easier or harder, and you're in the mood for it today.
Employee goal setting
Setting goals for employees is almost no different from setting personal goals. The only difference is that the company, team or manager is also involved in the objectives. In this case, goals get set to appraise the company's success, but you can also use them for conflict resolution. Such goals can get set during team building sessions, one-on-one with the employee, at special meetings, or even in an informal setting, depending on the company's characteristics and the corporate culture.
During setting goals for the employees, the performance KPIs to be achieved (increased) get taken as the basis. In conjunction with their HR or Development Manager, employees plan their professional development and review their progress through training and courses, books, compensation systems, project activities, and new technology to improve performance. It is also important to ensure that employees understand their roles, purpose, and responsibilities within the organization to foster engagement and develop individual responsibility for shared success.
The goal established in the employee goal-setting framework must correlate with the company's goals and get tied to its overall growth strategy. In this way, the result for which the employee must strive is not for themselves but the company. However, the employee still benefits from it through promotions, bonuses, or intangible bonuses, developed separately by management before the target-setting process begins.
The importance of goal setting
Why is it important to set goals? Setting goals is a key method to streamline your life, organize and optimize your work processes, increase your satisfaction, and realize your career ambitions. A goal always acts as a reference point, which makes it easier to manage your growth and initiate the necessary changes. One of the most famous quotes by entrepreneur and business coach Tony Robbins is, "Progress equals happiness." The absence of goals slows progress and makes it chaotic, inevitably postponing the moment of happiness.
From a more practical perspective, goal setting also helps you overcome procrastination and apathy, plan your schedule wisely, set personal and work priorities, and quickly figure out how to meet any need. At its core, goal setting is a means, a tool for realizing one's desires, which allows one to build a route to the destination point and get there with the least loss of resources. That's why the importance of goal setting is undeniable, both in your personal life and career.
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Goal setting examples
Everyone sets new goals for themselves every day without realizing it. Here are some templates for such goal-setting in different areas of life:
- Career goal. My career goal is to learn the profession of an HR manager and get a job at Company N with a salary of $5,000 by the 31st of October. To further refine and detail this goal, the following questions will help you: What should your routine look like so that you don't get tired of it? How do you want to impact the world and society? What makes you feel good? What are you willing to do?
- Financial goal setting: Saving up $40,000 before age 50 so you can retire and devote yourself to caring for young grandchildren. Financial goal setting involves questions like: "How much money do you need to have the lifestyle you are dreaming of having? What changes require what kind of expenses?
- Health goals: Learn to live a healthy lifestyle in a month, which includes eating six meals a day, quitting smoking, and going to the pool twice a week. Supporting questions: What problem areas do you have in your body? What diseases do your current lifestyle and genetics predispose? What precautions and self-care would improve your health?
- Educational goals are to get the highest student grades and to pass all exams and research papers. Supporting questions are: What skills do you need? Are there any side goals you need to achieve to reach your education goal? How do they intersect with each other? Should you seek help from someone else?
- Self-development goals: learn how to cope with stress to avoid emotional burnout in a stressful job. Supporting questions: What level of self-development are you at now? What related weaknesses, weaknesses, and problems do you have? What strengths do you have that you can further improve? What character traits would you like to have?