8 hacks for effective goal setting this New Year
Here we are at the start of another year and, while we might still be in the grip of a pandemic, let’s all start out positively, by working out what we want to do to improve our lives in 2022.
And while we’re all busy making New Year’s resolutions, it may be worth considering how we can best set goals that actually have a chance to succeed (so maybe put that plan to become an Olympic diver to one side for now, eh?). You may be familiar with the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. There is also an effective goal-setting model called ‘Well-Formed Outcomes’. Let’s explore that one a little more, shall we?
Questions to ask yourself for a ‘Well-Formed Outcome’:
1. What specifically do you want and when?
Ensure your goal is stated in the positive. If you were to get into a taxi and say to the driver, “Good morning, I don’t want to go to Victoria, The Strand, or Trafalgar Square,” the driver would have to ask you,“Where do you want to go?” in order to know what direction to head in. It’s the same with goal-setting. It is also important to know when you want to have achieved your goal by, so that you can work backwards from that date and have set mini-goals along the way.
2. Who is this goal for?
You are more likely to be motivated to achieve a goal when it is important to you – not someone else. If something is important enough, you will do anything to achieve it.
3. Where, when and with who do you want this goal?
Give the goal a context and a timeframe. For example, your goal could be to be more assertive. You may want this in a work context with colleagues; you may not want this at home with your partner.
4. Where are you now?
In order to measure progress, you need to realistically assess what position you are starting from.
5. Is the goal ecological?
Are there any negative consequences in achieving this goal, either for yourself or those around you? Thinking fully about the consequences may make you realise you no longer want that goal.
6. What will you be seeing, hearing and feeling when you achieve your goal?
Have you noticed that when you want to buy something, such as a car, you suddenly see that make of car everywhere? Or if you start dating someone, suddenly that person’s name is everywhere? Imagining and visualising what you see and how you feel having achieved that goal programmes an area of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS, amongst other functions, acts as a kind of sorting office, bringing what is most important into our conscious awareness. This also helps with maintaining motivation.
7. What will you be able to do once you achieve your goal?
Goals are more likely to be achieved when there is a goal beyond the goal. For example, ‘I want to get a promotion because with that promotion comes more money and more money means I will have more freedom’. In this case, the goal of making more money is to satisfy the greater goal of having more freedom.
8. What resources will you need?
If there are obstacles to achieving your goal, then you will need resources to overcome them. These resources may be internal such as confidence and resilience, or external, such as money, support from others and so on.
Once you have answered the questions above, use this checklist to ensure the goal is well-formed (thus improving the chances of a successful outcome).
- Is the goal stated in the positive; something specific you want to achieve rather than something you want to avoid?
- Is the goal for you?
- Can you see yourself achieving the goal and sense how it would feel when you do?
- Is there more than one way to achieve the goal?
- Is the first step is specific and achievable? The first step towards the goal is important because it provides positive motion and brings the goal closer. If the first step is too big, it may seem difficult to achieve or overwhelming and therefore may demotivate you.
- Does the goal have a set timeframe? Having deadlines to work towards is essential for a well-formed goal in order to avoid the “Yeah, I’ll do it soon” syndrome.
Happy goal setting and Happy New Year!