There’s an enormous amount of evidence-based information out there about the importance of goal setting and goal achievement that executive coaches and ADHD coaches can use to help you achieve success. Before we get into the weeds, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
Goals are defined as “the object of your effort or ambition; an aim or desired result”. Goal orientation is about what part of the goal achievement result you focus on – the journey towards the result or the result itself.
Intentionally crafting your goals and following what social scientists have uncovered about goal setting and goal achievement will not only dramatically improve your success but may also keep you from making some very serious mistakes along the way.
Step 1: Set the Orientation of Your Goal
You can set your goal orientation in different ways. For instance, you can choose to have a performance-oriented goal or an outcome-oriented goal.
Performance (Behavior) Goals (tend to be very specific and are often defined by specific actions):
“I want to consistently make healthy and appropriate food choices in relation to my current state of fitness.”
Outcome Goals (tend to be very general and do not have specific actions attached):
“I want to lose five pounds.”
An outcome goal can lower your motivation to reach the goal by taking focus away from the process you must go through to reach the goal. When you only value the outcome and not the journey, the goal can become meaningless, eroding your sense of purpose each day. The will to overcome tough obstacles to goal attainment slips.
Step 2: Start with the End in Mind
When speaking about goals, life and business strategist Tony Robbins says to begin with the end in mind. Doing so gives you the framework for what social scientists call mental contrasting – the experience of visualizing the process of goal achievement.
Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of Psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg, developed a mental contrasting tool that she calls “WOOP” which stands for:
- Wish – What do you want to achieve?
- Outcome – What would happen if you achieved your outcome?
- Obstacles – What obstacles might get in the way of achieving your desired outcome?
- Plan – What plans or actions do you have to overcome these obstacles?
Once you have defined and oriented your goal, put it through the WOOP tool to increase your chances of goal attainment. This tool gives you a clear understanding of the goal itself, along with the understanding of what might get in your way as well as the roadmap to overcoming obstacles.
Step 3: SMART(en) Up Your Goal
You may have heard about SMART goals, but when you add the “en” to the end, you get goals that are:
- Specific AND Meaningful
- Measurable AND Stretching
- Attainable AND Appealing
- Realistic AND Relevant
- Time-bound WITH Phased Targets
Be clear on why your goal is meaningful to you – define the meaning and purpose behind your goal. An increased sense of meaning and purpose can lead to more positive emotions, happiness and success.
Make sure your goal is measurable – that you are able to quantify or qualify the result. Additionally, make sure your goal provides you with an opportunity to stretch or grow – that the goal is challenging enough to make you muster more effort than just the basics to attain the result. Adding the element of “stretch” or “push” to your goal-setting process can be inspiring.
Goals that are attainable give us a feeling of accomplishment, and goals that are appealing keep our interest as we progress through the goal attainment journey.
When a goal is both realistic and particularly relevant to either the current time, your individual circumstances or popular contemporary interest, it is easier to keep your goal “top of mind”. A top-of-mind goal allows you to focus on concrete steps to goal attainment which helps you stay the course.
Additionally, when working on team or organization goals, relevance is crucial for the collective buy-in. For maximum engagement, people need to understand why reaching the goal is relevant to the team, the organization and how the individual fits into the big picture of the goal.
Finally, goals should always be time-bound. Adding tiny targets, milestones or phases to your goals can help keep you motivated.
Step 4: Create PURE Goals
A PURE goal is one that is:
- Positively Stated
When you write your goals, use positive language like:
“I want to focus on eating a healthy diet.”
Instead of writing a negatively stated goals like:
“I do not want to eat foods that are bad for me.”
By reframing a goal into a positive statement, you will be surprised by the emotional lift you will feel.
Step 5: Evaluate Your Goals for Clarity
It goes without saying that you should clearly understand your goal, but there are other contexts in which clarity and understanding are crucial. Team and organization goals can often be weak, murky or downright unclear! Making sure that shared goals are clear to everyone involved is key to the buy-in of the participants and, ultimately, to the success of goal attainment.
It is important to “record” your goal by writing it down and sharing it with others. Recording your goal increases your sense of commitment. Sharing your goal with others gives you layers of support and accountability outside of yourself. You are more likely to stay true to your journey towards reaching your goal when you are fully committed, and you have others cheering you on.
In Closing, A Word of Warning
With teams and organizations, the pressure participants can feel to demonstrate positive results on reaching the goal can sometimes lead to ethical problems. This feeling of pressure happens when the leadership in an organization fails to make clear that it has a fair tolerance for failure. On a meta scale, when organizations fail to create a broad culture that openly demonstrates an acceptance of mistakes and failures, unethical behavior is often ripe in the areas of both goal setting and goal achievement reporting. Keep in mind that setting goals can unleash unethical behavior in yourself, on your teams and in your organization if failing to reach the goal is understood to be unacceptable.
Want to learn more about how executive coaching or ADHD coaching can help catapult you forward? Contact me at Kimberly@KimberlyPutmanCoaching.com or at (504) 261-1026 to schedule a time for a brief complimentary phone consultation about coaching.