What is goal setting and how to make goal setting successful to achieve objectives

What Type Of Goals Should You Have?

January 4, 2022

Posted by Alexandra Lamb

It’s the start of the New Year! No doubt you’ve had several conversations (with yourself, and with others) about new year's resolutions. Whether you believe in them or not, now is the time you’ll be hearing a lot about them! So what are they? 

You might consider new year's resolutions to be reflections, intentions, or even just fantastic wishes, but they’re not likely to be achieved until they’re underpinned by goals and values. In this article we’re going to focus on just a few of the different types of goals, and how to make goal setting successful so you actually achieve your objectives and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing them in the rear view mirror!

What are Approach or Avoidance Goals?

Firstly, you want to consider whether your goal is about going towards something, or away from something. Approach goals have positive outcomes, for example, if you have a goal to move to the countryside for peace and quiet. By comparison, Avoidance goals have negative outcomes which you’re trying to circumvent.

For example, to move out of the city because it’s noisy and busy. You can see here that the goal is essentially the same - the move your home so you’re in the environment that suits you, but the way you frame it makes all the difference. An approach goal is about gravitating towards things that bring you satisfaction, whereas avoidance is about changing out of anger or discomfort. It’s always better to be moving towards something, and being positive about where you’re heading. 

Here’s an exercise you can run.

Think about the goals you have in your life at the moment, either at work or at home, and list them down. Now review them and reflect: are they approach or avoidance goals? If they’re the latter, how can you reframe them into approach goals? Write your new approach goal down in your journal. You’ll find you’re more likely to take the required actions if your goal is framed as positive, forward momentum. 

What are Performance or Outcome Goals?

Now, review your goals and consider whether they’re about the process or journey to getting your objectives to become reality, OR whether they’re about the end point you want to arrive at. For example, in the above goals about moving to your ideal living environment, this is an outcome goal. It’s about the end point ‘peace and quiet’ you want to achieve by moving to the country. Outcome goals are tricky, because there’s so many variables that can impact you getting there, and therefore they’re very vulnerable to failure - house prices in the country, sudden bush fires or floods in your chosen region, prohibitive commute times due to underfunded train lines, and etc. Not to mention that when you finally arrive in the country, you might not enjoy it as you planned!

Another example would be of an athlete aiming to win gold at the Olympics (an outcome goal), however they have to have a series of performance goals, including structured daily workouts, sleep and eating habits and mental readiness exercises to get there. These performance goals are the things the athlete can control, and that’s where the goal setting should take place. While the outcome goal might help them visualise the big picture, it’s the performance goals that they can actually impact. 

You might also notice that performance goals are smaller, and more incremental than outcome goals. This lends credence to the SMART goal setting model that most people are familiar with. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive. When we ensure our goals are approach goals and performance focused, and overlay the SMART principles, we will end up with several small, positive, milestone-based goals that lead us in the right direction towards our bigger vision. 

What is Goal Neglect and Sabotage?

There are so many more types of goals, but simply thinking about the approach/avoidance and performance/outcome concepts and overlaying the SMART principles will help you to set up really strong goals. And yet, even with comprehensive goals, we often don’t achieve them. So why?

Sometimes goals change - new information becomes available, or you reflect and learn something about yourself that shifts your perspective. It’s OK for goals to change! Having a strong goal setting process doesn’t mean we need to service the goal slavishly, even when it’s not right for us anymore. If you honestly think your goal has become less relevant, just start the process again and refresh!

However there are times when good, important goals get neglected or even sabotaged. This is important information for you to observe and be honest with yourself about. Don’t beat yourself up, but get curious about why the goals have been ignored or even kneecapped. This is where you’ll want to come back to that important relationship between goals and values. Values underpin your motivations, and while you might have conscious objectives and goals to achieve, your true values and underlying beliefs will come out through your behaviours, even subconsciously.

A great coach will work with you on your connection between your values and your goals, so they’re rooted in something truly meaningful and valuable to you, and therefore more likely to be followed through. 

In summary, sometimes we have work goals or family goals put upon us that we have to work with to achieve. In this case, you can still be comprehensive in your planning of HOW you achieve them. However for your personal goals, there’s an art to truly tapping into the importance of your private objectives to ensure goal setting becomes a powerful and meaningful process for you, one that spurs you on and energises you. You can speak with a BOLDLY coach about how to create a great goal setting experience, and then… execute it! Reach out at connect@boldly.app

About the Author:

Alexandra Lamb is an accomplished organisational development practitioner, with experience across APAC, North America, and MENA. With 20+ years in professional practice, conglomerates, and startups, she has collaborated with rapid-growth companies and industry innovators to develop leaders and high-performance teams. She is particularly experienced in talent strategy as a driver for business growth. Drawing from her experience in the fields of talent management, psychology, coaching, product development, and human-centred design, Alex prides herself on using commercial acumen to design talent solutions with true impact.

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