Is Goal Setting useless unless up close and personal? - Brilliant Living HQ

Is Goal Setting useless unless up close and personal?

Pantomime Elephant

Personal Development and the goal setting dilemma

How many times have you set goals only to give up on them? You set out with a pocket full of good intentions to lose weight, get fitter, earn a million bucks, quit smoking, or whatever and you really mean to go for it but by week two or three the goal is beginning to slip only to be abandoned for a later day (if ever).


Why does goal setting fail?

So you’ve set yourself the goal of losing weight.

Because you are super intelligent (we would say that, wouldn’t we), you’ve read our last post ‘Why set goals for yourself?‘, what are its qualities and why goal-setting is important’

You know that goals should be:

  • Personal – tick, you’re desperate to lose weight
  • What you desire or want – double tick, have you not seen my bum in the mirror?
  • Developing or of benefit to you – are you serious, it’d be great to play more with the kids without feeling as if I’ve run the New York marathon after 5 minutes.
  • A framework for your actions – sure thing, ‘no pain, no gain’.  I get that big time.

But it’s also week two of this new diet routine and the novelty is beginning to wear off, the TV tonight looks good, you’re knackered after a hard day’s work and let’s face it, it would be much easier to pick up a take-away than laboriously prepare all those flipping fresh ingredients you bought when dieting seemed like the perfect idea!

So what’s gone wrong? What’s missing?

The missing ingredient in Goal-setting

It turns out that the missing ingredient is within ourselves – our motivations, values and beliefs!

Is this getting deep or what?  Stick with it.

What’s your motivation, darling! 

Just as an actor looks for the motivation behind their character’s words to provide a clue as to how to say and act them, we need to look at the motivation behind the goals we set.

Owning your goals

In considering the motivation for your goals it helps to think about their meaning and importance for you as an individual.

Sometimes the difficulty here is that you think you want something but the truth is you are doing it for someone else, a significant other, such as a parent or loved one (‘Well, you could do with losing a bit of weight, dear!’ – ‘Yeah, thanks Mum’).

Are your goals for yourselves or for others; however well meaning those others might be?  It’s important to own your goals.

The purpose behind your goals

Another aspect of what will motivate you to achieve your goal is to think of the purpose behind your goals, because this will help sustain you through the process.   Take what you want to achieve and examine why (the purpose).

What does this mean?

Let’s take an example.  You have a goal of getting a bigger house (the what) but why do you want a bigger house?  You want a bigger house because you would dearly like to expand your family.

Understanding and focusing on the purpose (the why) of the goal is more motivating in the longer term.

Self-concordant goals

Having ensured that the goal is your own and identified the purpose behind it, there is another consideration that will further increase your motivation to achieve it.  That is to ensure that your goal is well integrated into the self-concept of who you are as a person.  These are called self-concordant goals.

Self-concordant goals are in line with your beliefs and values and are therefore more aligned to who you are as a person, your true self.

In the case of our example, this would mean looking beneath the goal and purpose (to buy the bigger house to accommodate a growing family) to the values and beliefs you hold about families e.g. what is a good size for a family, the effects of being an only child, the role of a parent, what a happy family looks like, etc.  It is like giving yourself an explanation of your purpose.

Because these goals have personal meaning to you as an individual and reflect your beliefs and values, you are more likely to succeed as you are more willing to put in self-sustaining effort over time to achieve them.

If you find that your goals are in line with your values and beliefs then all well and good, but what happens if they’re not?

Goals that do not reflect your own beliefs and values are in conflict with your sense of who you are and are therefore more likely to be abandoned.

When this happens (which is probably more than we ever recognize) there are two options:

  1. Re-evaluate and change the goal until it is in line with your beliefs and values
  2. Change your beliefs and values so they support your goals!

But that’s a whole new subject for another day.

Summary for your goal setting

  • When goal-setting – set a goal that has meaning and purpose to you;
  • Goals with ‘meaning and purpose’ are more likely to be achieved;
  • Goals in keeping with the sense of who you are as a person, your beliefs and values, are more likely to succeed because you are more willing to put in self-sustaining effort when the going gets tough.

What’s next?

  1. Listen to a podcast on goals, or subscribe to the Changeability Podcast on iTunes.
  2. Discover how goals fit into a wider program on making changes in your life, with our book Changeability: Manage your Mind – Change your Life
  3. Check out our resources for downloadable goals templates.


  • […] Haven't Got a Clue where to start with Goal Setting, Is Goal Setting Useless unless Up Close and Personal, What's In a Goal?, How to Change Your […]

  • […] Compare your ‘essential’ personal values to your goals in life [See Haven’t got a clues where to start with goal setting].  Do your values resonate with what you thought you wanted to achieve?  Remember, you are more likely to achieve the goals that resonate with your beliefs and values [See Is Goal Setting useless unless up close and personal?]. […]

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