Does Goal Setting Really Work?

by A.D Paterson on 28/07/2010

Over the years you’ve probably heard a lot of arguments for, and against, goal setting. All of the arguments seem quite persuasive, but should you or shouldn’t you set goals?

In almost all areas of your life there’ll be a point at which you can set a goal of some kind. It could be to get a better job within x number of years, move to a better neighbourhood, lose x number of pounds by the end of the year, or give up smoking. If you have a problem or an aim – you can usually set a goal. But does it help?

Well, setting goals really only helps if the goals you set are realistic. If you, for instance, decided that you were 28 pounds overweight, and that, just for good measure, you’d like to lose 35 pounds, and want to do it in the next three months, well, that’s probably going to be a bit unrealistic. Mmmm… doughnuts.

If you did start out with that as your goal you’d probably give up after a few weeks when the weight loss plateau kicks in. By that stage you’d realise that the goal was unachievable, you’d failed, life was unfair, and doughnuts keep asking you to buy them when you were out shopping. Damn them talking doughnuts!

It would have been far more realistic for you to realise that you go through a (fairly) rapid weight loss to start with, followed by a bit of a plateau, and then, by changing the routine around, a gradual loss of weight after that. Knowing this you could properly manage your expectations, and therefore set a realistic goal.

You could set a goal of a smaller weight loss, reach that and then set your next weight loss target. Sure, you don’t reach the target as quickly as you’d like, but if you did it the other way; you’re more than likely not going to reach your goal anyway.

Is goal setting a good thing? Well, yes. There’s a reason why the team that scores the most goals in football (soccer) is the winner. Soccer has goals, American Football has goals, Hockey has goals, Rugby has… ok Rugby has tries… and we all know what Yoda had to say about tries “Do or do not… there is no try.” I guess he was watching my local team at the time.

Set your goals, keep them modest, reset them each time you reach them, and in the end you’ll get there. If you have no goals, you have no focus, and without focus you squint a lot and stumble over every obstacle along the way, goal setting will let you see a way around those obstacles.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

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