Personal and professional goals are our psychological oxygen. They provide us with focus, direction and momentum. Take goals away from a person and they will soon feel that their life has no meaning, no purpose, and a sense of unworthiness will creep in which can turn into depression. For some people, setting goals is second nature and a framework they find comfort in. For others, it is a deliberate process that requires conscious practice. The reason for the different approaches can be found in Locke and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory, which explains what, motivates people to achieve a desired outcome. Surely you can relate to situations where a goal was inspiring, challenging and fun to attain. And likewise another situation where reaching a goal was like treading mud, where you made slow progress and it all felt like a chore. What was the difference?
How personal development goals give you focus
We have heard many times that setting goals and striving towards goal attainment is good for us. Goals give us focus, allow us to think, and provide the momentum to get to where we want to be. Not having goals makes us feel rudderless and purposeless and can make us feel depressed. Goal gurus ask to check our goals to see they are SMART, which means Simple, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time Bound. All of that is necessary to ensure goal success, but have you ever asked yourself why you are setting the goal in the first place? What is your fundamental reason for it?
In the last 20 years researchers have delved into this topic extensively and have established that we use three categories, albeit subconsciously, to select our goals. The decisions we make contribute to our goal success and performance. There is no doubt that some of us have more goal orientation genes than others, but that’s not the crucial factor. The environment and our social network always influence our behaviour, but what really matters are two things, which are linked to our mindset and philosophy to goals.
- Do we embrace goals to learn and master a skill for our own benefit? Or do we embrace goals to get favourable approval from others? This is an interesting concept which we can reflect over for a moment. Which of these two types do you regularly use? What was your success?
- As human beings are complex in their structure, the concept becomes intertwined. We approach goals to achieve a predetermined outcome; however is the goal intended to avoid something or approach something? Do you exercise at the gym every morning because you either want to avoid being overweight or you love the sensation of being fit and healthy?
Goal setting and one’s psychological orientation is directly interlinked with performance. The one leads to the other, but one’s internal state is the precursor to the external output, the end result.