Notes On Goal Setting

There are many people who are familiar with a goal setting process. There are many books written about it and a lot of information that can be found. However, sometimes this information is misunderstood, or even incorrect. This page describes some common myths and misconceptions about goal setting.

Goals Set By Others

Some people believe that goals set for you by others won't work. They believe that if you make a goal that someone else has to fulfill, or someone makes a goal for you to fulfill, then it will not be possible to achieve that goal. This is correct in some situations but not in others.

In order to achieve a goal you need motivation. Motivation comes from within you. While it is possible to motivate someone through threatening them or promising them reward, the actual motivation comes from the persons desire to avoid the threat or achieve the reward. If a goal is set for someone by another person the goal likely won't be achieved because the motivation isn't present.

Understanding how motivation works is important for achieving goals. In the situation where someone else sets a goal for you, you can still make it an effective goal by taking ownership of it. You take ownership of it by making the goal your own goal and make it something you want. You can do this by either accepting the goal directly or by analyzing the goal and understand how achieving it can be in your best interest.

To learn more about motivation and goals, read the Motivation towards your Goals page.

Changing a Set Goal

If you set a goal for yourself then constantly revise it and change it then you will likely not achieve it. In fact, if you constantly change it, then it is not really a goal. Furthermore, the plans you made to achieve this goal will have to be changed. Soon, all your efforts go towards working on the goal setting process and not on actually achieving your goal.

However, there are some situations where changing your goal is valid. Sometimes factors beyond your control change your situation. For example, if your goal was to get a promotion at your job but you were transferred to a different department, then your goal no longer makes sense.

Sometimes there is a change which affects the value of your goal. If your goal is to buy a specific car that has all the features you want, but a new car is produced that is even better, you can change your goal. Since the release of the new car diminishes the value of your original goal, it makes sense to change it.

Sometimes, as we work towards a goal, we gain new insights or develop a new understanding. With new understanding it may make sense to change our goal. It is not uncommon that once we start working through the details towards our goal we may realize that our initial goal isn't exactly what we want, or maybe it isn't even possible. In these situations it makes sense to make changes to your initial goal.

Goals: Stepping Stone Or End Result

When making goals it is important to understand the greater context in which that goal exists. Quite often we set goals that are really just to help us achieve other goals. For example, if you have a goal of getting a specific car, it can be helpful to understand why you want a car in the first place. Where do you plan on driving? Who will you be taking with you?

By understanding the greater context in which your goal exists, you will be better able to understand what it is you really want to achieve. Knowing this can help you make better goals as well as help motivate you to achieve your goals.

Should Goals be Public?

Some people believe that you should make a public statement when you set a goal. This can simply be sharing your goal with a friend, family member, or your boss. Telling another person about your goal can increase its effectiveness and increase the chances that you will stick with it. This can increase your motivation and help increase the probability that you will achieve your goal.

However, it isn't always necessary to share your goals with others. Sometimes a goal is too personal and you aren't comfortable sharing it with another person. It is also possible that the people around you won't support you in achieving a goal — in fact they may even work against you if they don't approve of it.

Is Even Progress Best?

Some people say that once you set a goal you should work towards it with even, steady, progress. In general this is a good idea. Working towards a goal with a steady pace will help you maintain balance, conserve your energy, and prevent your from getting burned out.

Even when working towards a goal at a steady pace, visible progress isn't always steady. For example, for someone who starts a weight training routine, quite often results don't show up for several weeks. This can be discouraging because it is always nice to see the results of your efforts. It is important to keep this in mind when working towards your own goals — even if you don't see any immediate progress, don't give up.

There are times when a steady pace towards a goal isn't the best approach. Sometimes opportunities appear for only a short time and need to be taken advantage of before time runs out. Other times, it may make sense to wait before working on a goal. Another situation where it makes sense to work harder towards a goal is when you are highly motivated and have a lot of energy to achieve something. It is a good idea to take advantage of this state and put that energy to good use.




Related Pages

Goal Setting - Misconceptions
Three Characteristics of Goals
Notes On Goal Setting
Motivation towards your Goals
Choosing Goals
Goal Setting Process