Goals can work – here is how!

July 18, 2018

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate that goals influence employee performance and behavior every day. The problem is that individuals (and even some organizations) don’t understand how to increase their likelihood of successfully achieving the goals they set. Under the right circumstances, and if goals are created using the formula outlined in this article, effective target setting can be the key influential factor for creating a culture of high performance.

If goal setting is so valuable, why is it that so many goals are never attained? It just boils down to a couple of things of common pitfalls.

Write It Down

If you take ownership of something, an item, an idea or a goal, by writing it down or sharing it with a colleague, you will be more committed to it.  This is because of something psychologists call the endowment effect. That means that goals that are written down are more likely to be achieved.

A clever experiment was conducted by Cornell University that proved the endowment effect using coffee mugs and chocolate. Researchers gave participants in the experiment coffee mugs, and offered to trade them chocolate for their mug. Almost none of the participants wanted to trade.

Next, researchers reversed the trial. They gave different participants chocolate and asked them to trade for the coffee mugs. Again, very few wanted to trade. This experiment showed the endowment effect in action. The participants wanted to keep what they already had. The object itself wasn’t important at all. This is the same as the goals we set. When we write them down, we take ownership of them, and then we work to keep them.


We have all heard of the fairytale Goldilocks and the three bears. For those of you who don’t remember, Goldilocks is the greedy little brat who stole porridge from the three bears. Whenever you think of goal setting, think of Goldilocks – she holds the key to helping you achieve those elusive goals. Goals that are not too easy, or hard are called Goldilocks’ goals. These types of goals keep up us motivated, and lead to a far greater and determined effort on the part of the person who set the goal.

In a nutshell, if the goal is too hard or too easy, motivation wanes. In one study, 90% of people who used this ‘just right’ technique to create their objectives managed to successfully achieve them.

So, whether it’s a sales target or a goal to attend the office gym, make sure you take time to consider the fullness of the challenge in achieving them.

Stop Being Vague

Wishy washy goals that are vague and broad, decrease our focus. It’s clarity you need if you want to increase your chances of success. When you have clarity and specificity around your goal, your chances of achieving it will increase exponentially.

But, what if you have big fat audacious goals? What then? That’s easy, split the goal up. Make each component manageable and achievable. If you break down your big goal into smaller chunks, you will need to make sure that each of these chunks should also have their own deadline. You will make incremental gains and this will supercharge your motivation too.

Be Accountable

Let’s face it, you’re only human, and humans procrastinate, lose motivation, and fall into old habits. To help keep you on the straight and narrow, enlist an accountability buddy. They will keep you on the right track, and hopefully provide you with feedback, along the way to further help you achieve your goal. There is a myriad of other ways to make yourself accountable, what about using social media, sticking a post-it note on your desk or shared notice board, or creating reminders on your smart phone?

Having the Right Mindset

People with a growth mindset embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path of mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.  These attributes are needed in your path to goal success. Having a growth mindset makes people more resilient, and able to bounce back when they hit a hurdle or obstacle, and this is something you need if things go pear shaped.

Questions to Ask Yourself

When setting goals for yourself, you need to ask yourself some questions to ensure that you are on the right track. Ask yourself questions like: How challenging is the goal for me or my organsiation? Am I excited about reaching the goal? Is the goal too easy or too hard? How can I break the goal into smaller parts so that I don’t get overwhelmed? These questions will ensure that you are taking into consideration all that you need so that you achieve it.

Back at the Office

Let’s recap. To increase your odds of achieving goals you should:

  1. Create Goldilocks goals: The goal shouldn’t be too easy, nor too hard
  2. Set specific goals
  3. Write the goals down
  4. Find ways to make yourself accountable
  5. Use growth mindset principles to supercharge goals

If you do these things you will not only increase the likelihood of achieving the goal’s you set, you will have greater productivity, a greater measurement of what you do, and be motivated to set attainable goals in the future. What’s not to like about that?

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