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Why set goals for yourself?

Why set goals for yourself?

British Olympic Gold Medalists Coxless Four London 2012

We started talking in our last post about the first steps we can take to change something that’s getting in the way of life being brilliant.  This was about identifying what you want to change and starting to think about what you want it to change to, in other words, your goals.

 So we thought it might be helpful to look at the idea of goals, why set goals for yourself and what lies behind them.

Goal setting

About goal setting

Ever since the British philosopher and industrial psychologist Cecil Alec Mace conducted the first experimental studies of goal-setting in 1935, and goal setting theory was further developed by Edwin A. Locke in the 1960s, goal setting has been used as a motivational tool.

What is a goal?

The Oxford Dictionary describes a goal in this context as ‘the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’

Even from this short definition we can draw out some of the key characteristics of a goal:

  • It is personal to you
  • It is what you desire or want at the end of the process
  • You see it as of benefit to you in some way
  • It gives you something to aim for
  • You achieve something at the end of it which has value to you, this could be a physical object (perhaps a new job, house, car, husband) or a more abstract subjective concept (you feel fitter, happier, have more time, a better relationship)

But why bother at all?

Why set goals for yourself?

Goals work!

It is striking how often the practice of setting goals features not only in personal development literature, but also within the life stories of many successful people.

Goals focus attention, provide direction, purpose and a framework for action

Setting goals is like setting your intention to do something and gives you something concrete to work towards; a direction of travel with a end aim in mind.  Goal setting is a vital component in the field of sports psychology and coaching to enhance sporting performance.  It is a key element in business and personal coaching and mentoring and a cornerstone of group support networks like study or mastermind groups.

Goals increase motivation and measure progress

Human resources personnel have devised myriad ways of setting, checking and evaluating objectives (a sort of goal) to monitor, improve or reward performance – but don’t let that put you off! You don’t need someone monitoring your progress for goals to be motivating (but it can help).

Goals lead to an increased sense of well-being

Studies demonstrate a link between achieving long-term goals and changes in how we feel about ourselves; with most research demonstrating that achieving goals that have personal meaning to you, increase your sense of well-being.  You will hopefully know for yourself that happy feeling and the sense of achievement that comes from accomplishing something you’ve set out to do.

Goals or aspirations?

If you find the language of goals a bit off-putting (maybe it reminds you of performance reviews at work) then you may find it helpful to think in terms of aspirations, aims or ambitions instead.  The terminology isn’t important it’s really just a way of capturing aspects of what you want your life to look like.

What is important is that by having them you are more likely to get the life you want.

And you might want to consider what happens if you don’t have any goals in your life!

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.
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