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Setting Goals

New year resolutions. Bucket lists. Birthday wishes. Making goals has become a tradition for each benchmark we pass in today’s culture. Achieving these goals, on the other hand, is not as easy. The science behind intrinsic motivation has ties to the philosophies of mindfulness. In fact, psychologists have established strategies and theories on the processes of making a goal and how to achieve them. By examining these studies, we can get a better understanding on how to use them to our advantage.

How do you typically go about making a goal? Do you prefer to write it down, tell a friend, or simply keep it in mind as you go about your daily schedule. According to Dr. Locke and Dr. Latham, there are a series of rules that you can follow in order to establish behavioral change. Though established in the 1960s, employers continue its teachings in modern practices. As individuals, we can take a lot at the basic core values of the theory.

First, when writing your goal, make sure it is Specific. For example, instead of saying I want to eat healthier, aim for a statement such as I want to eat home-cooked meals for at least four lunches a week. With a clear end result, you make your goal Measurable. A measurable goal will allow you to track your progress and give you a better idea of when you have officially achieved it. Some questions that you can ask to make your goal specific and measurable are: how do you plan on achieving your goal, what numerical units can you use to track your progress, and what do I hope to gain after achieving these goals? Defining your goal will make it easier to comprehend and follow.

Next, make sure to keep your goal Achievable and Realistic. It may be tempting to set a challenging result for yourself, such as I want to be able to do fifty push-ups in under ten minutes. However, this can lead to frustration and resentment once you’re unable to achieve that goal. Make sure to keep something’s difficult, but also attainable in order to get a proper sense of satisfaction. Perhaps you can break down a bigger idea into smaller increments, such as saying I want to learn how to do 10 push-ups in 10 minutes, and then building your away up little by little. You should also adapt your goal to your personal strengths. Perhaps you have good lower body strength, but not upper body strength. In that case, make your goal a little bit easier for the first time around. In other words, you should have a goal that isn’t frustrating to achieve but will still give you a satisfying reward once you do.

Another common attribution to help make your goal-building easier is to establish a Time period in which you want to achieve it. Many people procrastinate things until the last minutes, so it isn’t a surprise that they continue to push off activities that don’t have a strict deadline. So, by establishing a specific period for yourself, you can measure your success and failure in achieving your goal as well as provide motivation to continue it. Ask yourself: how much time do I want to devote to the goal, do I want the results to be short-term or long-term, and how quickly do I want to achieve it?

To sum it up, you want to remember SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

These steps will allow you to build a goal that is easier to follow and obtain. As you work on these steps, remember that - like most activities - it takes practice and persistence to get it right. If you find that you’re unable to reach the goal you’ve set for yourself, perhaps take a step back and re-identify your values. Instead of adapting your goals, adapt your goals to your lifestyle. Each individual has a different criteria and set of values that they work best with, so make sure to take your time and stay determined.

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