The 5 Principles of Effective Goal Setting | Transform & Thrive
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The 5 Principles of Effective Goal Setting

Whether it’s your personal new year’s resolutions, your professional development or a new business plan, effective goal setting is crucial for success. Effective goals give you clarity, focus and motivation.

You might already be familiar with the concept of SMART goals; the idea that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. But is there more to it than that?

According to Drs Locke and Latham, there are 5 other elements that also need to be considered when goal setting.

The 5 Principles of Goal Setting Theory  

1. Clarity

Your goal should be clear and well-defined. This is where the theory of SMART goals can come in handy.
Which of these do you think is the clearer, more effective goal?

Goal 1: Reduce time taken to process invoices.

Goal 2: Research available software that could reduce the time taken to process invoices on a weekly basis from 3 to 2 hours.

Goal 2 provides a clear measure of success (the exact time taken to process invoices) and a clear starting point (researching new software).

How would you know when you’ve achieved Goal 1? You could reduce the time taken to process invoices by 5 minutes, which would meet its requirements, but is that really what you were aiming for?

2. A Sense of Challenge

Your goal should be achievable but it should also stretch you.  

When a goal is realistic but challenging, it tends to be more motivating and the feeling of achievement when you’ve reached it is more significant. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you may also end up learning or discovering new skills and strengths, which is rewarding in itself.

When something is too easy it feels less important and you’re more likely to lose focus and motivation.

3. Commitment

It seems obvious, but to successfully achieve your goals you need to be fully committed to them. It is this commitment that will keep you going when you encounter obstacles along the way.

A good way to refocus your commitment, particularly if things get tough, is through the use of a common Positive Psychology technique called Visualization; creating a mental image of what you and your life will be like when you’ve achieved your goal.

Think about how you feel in this imagined future. What has changed for you? What do you notice about yourself?

Visualizing the outcome of your hard work and effort is an effective way to strengthen your commitment to your goal.

4.  Getting Feedback

Regular reflection of your progress will help you stay on track, stay motivated and ensure that your goals are still relevant.

A good place to start a review is with any changes you’ve noticed. This could be changes in your own habits or behaviour, your thought patterns or skill set. It could also be changes in your relationships, the way you communicate or how people respond to you. What do these changes tell you about your progress towards your goal?

If it feels strange scheduling a review with yourself, why not ask a colleague, friend or mentor to sit down with you and talk through your achievements so far, any challenges, how you worked through them, and what your next steps are.

A good tip is to build milestones into your action plan. Whenever you reach one of these milestones, pause and review.

5. Managing Complexity

Whilst a challenging task can be motivating and help you focus, it’s important to give yourself the time and space you need to work through complex tasks.

You don’t need to do everything all at once. For example, you might have allocated yourself just one day to complete a task. But if you feel low in energy that day, you might end up abandoning it. Instead, try tackling just one element at a time, perhaps devoting just 1 hour every day. This enables you to maximise your energy and maintain your focus when dealing with complex or overwhelming tasks.

Again, using milestones can help with this. For example, if you need to learn a new technique, skill or piece of software, make that your first goal, before jumping straight into using it.

It’s also helpful to check in regularly with how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, do you need to adjust your target or your timescales? Could you break the task down into smaller sub-tasks that are easier to manage?

Paying attention to these 5 elements will help you set and achieve effective goals.

Are you setting effective goals, for yourself or your organisation? Get in touch to find out how Positive Psychology Coaching could help.


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