Setting effective goals is essential for success. But HOW you set goals determines whether you are poised for achievement or frustration. In Harvard Business School report “Goals Gone Wild,” authors conclude that: “goal setting has been treated like an over-the-counter medication when it should really be treated with more care, as a prescription-strength medication.” Misguided goal setting may emphasize the wrong things and lead to extreme behaviors. Even worse, abandoned goals tend to breed anti-motivational states of cynicism and hopelessness.
Conventional goal-setting wisdom engages the acronym of S.M.A.R.T. It is a reminder to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. In addition to applying these fundamental principles, here are some major pitfalls to avoid:
Kurt’s wife wants him to quit chewing tobacco, and while he wanted to please her, he isn’t truly willing to give up his habit. He goes through the motions on the surface, but never fully committed to quitting.
Deborah set effective goals to earn an extra $50,000 by spring, without taking into account changes in the marketplace. When she didn’t achieve her goal, she inaccurately presumed that she isn’t as qualified as her competitors, and lost much of her confidence and enthusiasm.
Jack assumes he is a failure because he set his goal to lose 30 pounds in six months, and at the end of it all, his net loss is only 10 pounds. In the context of “all or nothing” thinking, Jack abandons his goal as unattainable.
Ann set a goal to lose weight, but she values her diet of hot dogs and loves to spend time playing computer games. When push came to shove, she chooses her current lifestyle as a higher priority than making time to exercise and choosing healthy foods.
John is eager to fulfill his New Year’s Resolution of quitting drinking alcohol, but when he was out with friends and they bought him a drink, he was unprepared and went along with the crowd. Assuming he is a failure, he soon abandons his goal.