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It's a goal. Tuesday September 17, 2013

Are you sometimes overwhelmed by the feeling that your life is directionless, that you're drifting rather than heading anywhere in particular? It's as if you are wandering without aim rather than focusing on a journey to a specific destination.

Thinking about your goals - or lack of them can be very helpful.

People are goal-driven animals. When we are hungry, our goal is to find food. When we are hot our goal is to get cool. For the most part, we are not aware of these everyday goals and our responses to them. But nevertheless they drive our behaviour.

There are also goals that we consciously set (like getting a certain qualification, moving to a different part of the country or taking control of our anger). Behavioural scientist have studied goals for many years and here's some advice which may help you.

As a rule, stretch goals (ones that are at the limit of your capability) are more likely to be achieved (and be more beneficial) than easy goals. It sounds paradoxical, but if a goal is too easily achieved, it's hard to get motivated. On the other hand, there's no point is setting yourself up for failure by picking a goal that's over-ambitious. So your aim should be to choose a goal that's possible but still a significant challenge.

To be effective, a goal needs to be concrete and specific. You need to know when you've succeeded. There's a saying a business that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. So aiming to get fitter isn't a genuine goal but an intention. On the other hand, aiming to be fit enough to run 5 miles in say 40 minutes is an authentic goal. You can plan for it and measure your progress. Managing your money better isn't a goal, whereas cutting your expenses by £100 a month is a genuine target.

In a similar way, goals need a deadline. So your fitness target should be 5 miles in 40 minutes by, say, within 3 months. Goals needn't always be long term. It's sometimes useful to set yourself what might be called 'now' goals - targets you can achieve quickly in order to boost your self confidence and help you on your way to achieve a more substantial target. For your fitness programme, for instance, a now goal might be to acquire a comfortable pair of jogging shoes.

The moral is, success breeds success.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 8:59am

I needed this today! It's made me think....

Richard Hull, PhD Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 9:48am

Nice post Andrew but please, please do not use this again "There's a saying in business that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it". I used to teach and research in a business school and am currently volunteering with a number of charities, where the governmental imperative to measure everything in sight is actually causing huge stress for many people and even acute distress for some.

Anonymous Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 10:48am

I think this is great .. So On Target .. A gentle reminder (thoughtful & practical) ~ Thank You.

Julia Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 12:45pm

Intentions, targets, goals, aims..... don't some people think it's a great achievement just to get out of bed in the morning?

Elizabeth Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 12:45pm

Yes, how do you apply this (great for most challenges) theory of motivation to your mood? Moodscope is an attempt to meassure mood in general, but how do you messure controlling your anger (to use the example from the blog), or how do you rewrite the wish to feel less fear or to be happy into a specific goal? How do you reach your goal if you don't have a such a clear way like with physical training or studying?

I have just recently learned about those guidelines for setting goals, and I find them useful but I would really appreciate some oppinion on the questions above. Thank you very much.

Anonymous Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 1:09pm

In Quality Improvement terms its 'how much by when?' Very easy to remember and use ie I'm going to lose a stone by Christmas. I wish!

Anonymous Tue, Sep 17th 2013 @ 6:57pm

Right on, sister.

Julia Wed, Sep 18th 2013 @ 10:16am

! ! ! xx

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