Self Help

Psychology Behind Goal-Setting


Imagine yourself going to chess practice without having any major or minor reasons, or even writing your exams without a solid reason to do so. Making up such scenarios in our heads itself causes us discomfort as we think of ourselves having to work for something like machines; i.e., without any humane reason for the same. Goal setting, thus, becomes an inevitable part of psychological discussions and research.

Goal setting refers to a successful plan that one sets for oneself to achieve some end. The short-term or long-term goals that one may set for oneself help them to choose the right moves and guide them to make the right decisions to reach the desired end. Research has long proven that people who had ambitious goals recorded better performance than those who did not consider creating goals for themselves.

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The S-M-A-R-T Rule

Goal-setting as a psychological technique for enhancing productivity follows five guidelines or criteria known as the S-M-A-R-T rule. George T. Doran developed this rule in 1981 as part of a Washington Power Company management research article, and it is by far one of the most prominent assertions in goal psychology.

  • S-SPECIFIC: They focus on improving a certain area of functioning.
  • M-MEASURABLE: The outcomes can be measured quantitatively or at least indicated by certain qualitative characteristics. This aids in tracking progress following the execution of plans.
  • A-ATTAINABLE: The objectives are tailored to specific people and are personalized. They recognize that no single rule fits all and are flexible in this regard.
  • R- REALISTIC: They are practical and designed to be easily implemented in real life. A wise goal’s function is not just to provide a strategy, but also to assist the individual in carrying it out.
  • T- TIME-BOUND: The inclusion of time makes the aim more focused. It also specifies a time frame for task completion.

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Types of Goals in Psychology

There are mainly 3 types of goals in psychology which are titled process goals, outcome goals and performance goals.

Process goals are those that focus on the plan execution. These goals focus on creating a habit that would help us reach our desired needs. Performance goals are the reason for the individual to continue their work towards the need. They help them keep up their hard work, become a fodder to their determination and maintain their motivation to achieve the main objective. Outcome goals are the successful execution of process and performance objectives. They help us to keep things structured and help us stay focused on the bigger picture.

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Features of Goals

Goals play an inevitable role in the field of psychology as it helps psychologists in their work of predicting the attitudes and behaviours of individuals if need be. Moreover, goals shape how individuals view their environment and its dynamics. For example, people who foster goals for their lives mostly develop a positive outlook towards everything in life as compared to those who have not developed goals for themselves. there are various characteristics of a goal that cause them to alter the mental health of the individuals.

  1. They are value-laden: Effective goals are based on good values and ethics. They, like the S-M-A-R-T-E-R goals, help people discover their basic beliefs before defining goals for achievement. According to studies, the more we match our basic beliefs and principles, the more likely we are to achieve our goals.
  2. Connection to Reality: A practical goal plan requires a reality check. We become aware of our skills and flaws and take activities that align with our potential. A good orator, for example, should establish goals to excel as a speaker, but an expressive writer should strive to be a successful novelist.
  3. Aids in evaluating the self: The successful completion of goals is a clear indicator of our success. Once we’ve attained our goals, we don’t require affirmation from others. The scope of self-evaluation increases self-confidence, efficacy, and self-reliance, and it motivates us to continue setting practical goals at all stages of life.
Skills for goal setting:

Just like how the individual has to be skilled enough to achieve a particular goal, setting a plan of action would also require the individual to be equally skilled in the process to create an effective one. Thus, there are some essential skills that one must nurture in himself or herself in order to set efficient goals.

  1. Commitment: Goal setting will not function unless we are dedicated to them. It is critical that goals are essential and relevant on a personal level, and that we believe we can achieve, or at least make significant progress towards, a goal.
  2. Higher levels of self-regulation: Individuals must regulate and manage their emotions to achieve their personal and social goals. With enhanced Emotional Intelligence comes the capacity to efficiently consider and define motivational goals, objectives, and missions.
  3. Accurate perception and management of time: Time management is a valuable ability for many aspects of life, including goal setting. Setting objectives is usually regarded as a specific time management behaviour, although time management is also essential to achieve a goal. If we do not adequately assess the timeframe required to achieve a goal, we will undoubtedly fail.
  4. Quality of planning: Goal success relies heavily on planning and organizational skills. Proper preparation allows us to prioritize and retain concentration on the task at hand while avoiding unnecessary distractions that can divert our attention away from the end goal. Low-quality planning hurts goal-related performance.
Tips to Set Successful Goals
  1. Set realistic objectives: Setting objectives based on our abilities, aspirations, and affinities is a great method to create a workable plan. The strategy facilitates habit-building since we know where to focus and how to execute the actions.
  2. Explore and accurately utilize resources: The more we learn about goal-setting and its rewards, the easier it is for us to keep to them. We can begin developing our knowledge base by seeking professional guidance, speaking with supervisors at work, or participating in self-assessments.
  3. Feedback: We find it easier to keep to the plan when we reward ourselves for our efforts and achievements. Managers who provide regular feedback to their employees and teammates have better rectification rates and performance rates teams than those who do not communicate with employees about their development.

Read more: 7 Science-Backed Strategies To Build a Habit

We all have curated plans for our lives or at least an imaginary trajectory through which we wish our lives should be led no matter at what cost. This track that we wish to put our life in is full of chances wherein we ought to set goals to help us achieve our ends. These opportunities are to be met with the required skills to set goals that drive our passion and are realistic and attainable. Thus, goal setting and the skills that carefully foster an individual to work on the track are pivotal to an individual’s development.

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