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Goal Setting

The Importance of Goal Setting

Goal setting is very influential when it comes to our well-being and productivity. Without goals, people would have no path to follow and would achieve very little. Setting goals motivates individuals to accomplish more. Research shows that you will feel more inclined to partake in actions that bring you closer to achieving that goal when you set a goal for yourself.

Goals create purpose for individuals while allowing them to grow and feel accomplished. This sense of growth and accomplishment is essential for a positive mental state. Think about a time you completed a goal. You probably were proud of what you were able to complete and experienced a feeling of self-fulfillment. The process of setting and achieving goals has these positive impacts on our internal and potentially even our external selves.

Productivity is a desirable quality for everyone. It can be difficult for some individuals to find the motivation to stay productive and active. Setting goals can help people improve their productivity. Research shows there is a strong association between setting specific goals and increased productivity in individuals. An increase in productivity allows you to accomplish more in your day than you might have thought possible. Additionally, if you are productive in one area of your life, it can help you to be productive in other areas of your life. So just by setting one goal, such as waking up at 7 am every day, you can contribute to the completion of other goals. Productivity is a chain reaction. This means if you accomplish one thing in your day, you will not only have more time to complete other goals, but you will feel more inclined to take the necessary steps to complete these other goals. The satisfaction you gain from being productive in one area of your life can carry over to multiple other areas and change your quality of life for the better.

How to Set Goals

Setting goals is a somewhat simple process, but there are some things you may want to consider. You should set your goals based on how willing you are to make changes in that aspect of your life. Readiness for change is a big factor when determining if you are going to successfully complete your goals. By making sure of this, you are establishing a form of commitment to this goal and will be more likely to achieve it.

Once you have determined a readiness for change, comprise a list of your wants, needs, and abilities. Take into account the different aspects of your life and what you specifically want the focus of the goal to be. Suppose your goal is to increase your amount of daily activity level. Ask yourself: Do you want to get more active to lose weight? Get healthier? Or fit into your clothes more comfortably? By brainstorming a long list of ideas, you will be able to visualize your specific goal.

Choose goals that interest you or ones that positively impact your life. Setting goals that you enjoy can help motivate you more when working toward completing those goals. These goals should be not only desirable but also be feasible. You want to choose a goal that you know you are capable of someday achieving. Impractical goals will leave you feeling discouraged and disappointed. However, you do not want to set such a simple goal that there is no real motivation behind it. Research shows that humans thrive in situations where they are challenged slightly and pushed just outside their comfort zone. Setting an achievable goal that is moderately challenging and interesting will provide you with the most reward.

Different Goal Setting Methods

There are many different approaches to take when goal setting. Each method outlines several similar characteristics. When it comes to setting goals, the first thing you want to do is make sure it is behavior-focused. This allows you to focus on concrete things you can change. Focus on realistic and feasible goals. Understand your limits and abilities, so you will know you can achieve them. Your goals should be flexible. Allow for changes in your goal as you work to achieve them. When creating goals using any of these methods outlined below, incorporate these characteristics to ensure that you are creating clear goals that you will be able to achieve.

SMART Goals

SMART goals are commonly used when for behavior change in health. This goal-setting method focuses on 5 characteristics around which your goal should be: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

An example of a SMART goal would be to lose 1 pound this week by walking 30 minutes 3 days and swapping fast food for home-cooked for 1 extra meal.

Specific

Specific means that you provide detail about what you are doing. Describe what you plan to do with as much detail as possible.

Measurable

Next, make your goal measurable. When writing your goal, it should be as easy as possible to see the changes you have made and know when you complete that goal.

Achievable

Your goals should also be achievable. This means that you can meet your goal within the specified time frame with your current ability level and resources without making it too easy or too hard.

Relevant

Next, your goals should be relevant to you and your larger goal.

Time-Bound

Finally, your goal should be time-bound or have a date by which you should reach this goal.

Golden Circle

The next method of goal setting that is commonly used is the Golden Circle method. This method, originally developed for organizational goal setting, can be applied to personal goal setting as well. In this method, one describes the “what,” the “how,” and the “why” related to your goal. The “why” describes your purpose or reason behind the goal you are setting, and having a strong “why” will help you realize your goals. The “how” describes the actions you will take to reach your “why”. The “what” describes what will happen when you complete the “how.” When using this method, it is important that both your “how” and “what” are directly related to your “why.” Below is an example of how this method can be used to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Regardless of the type of goal you set or what goal-setting method you choose, it’s important to not overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals. Setting just a few goals can greatly benefit you as an individual and help you maintain a balanced life that is essential for good mental health.

How Can Goal Setting Impact My Health?

Goals and goal setting can positively impact both physical and mental aspects of an individual’s health.

Impacts on Physical Health

Setting goals can impact your physical health. One such impact is by improving your quality of life. Setting health-related goals can improve health status and can lead to additional health benefits. Studies show that individuals who set health-related goals also tend to improve their diet and physical activity behaviors. Making these healthy changes can then give you more energy to do other important things in your life. When you focus your goals on a specific aspect of your bodily health, you will tend to see improvements in that area. One study regarding individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes determined that self-efficacy and goal setting improved physical states of health. When these participants set goals and believed they were capable of completing those goals, it resulted in an increase in their health. For example, the majority of these participants reported lowered A1C values, which indicates a positive health change.

Impacts on Mental Health

Goal setting can also have an impact on your mental health. The mental health benefits of setting and accomplishing a goal are present throughout the entire course of action. The initial step of setting a goal creates a sense of purpose. The purpose of the action is essential for strong mental health. Without purpose, daily tasks would seem void of worth, and therefore pointless.

Goal setting also releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that drives you to perform actions required to maintain the sense of reward. Dopamine is partly the reason why the process of setting and completing goals can act as a chain reaction. Your brain craves the continuous sense of satisfaction caused by dopamine. By continuing to set goals, you can provide yourself with more of these positive reinforcements to allow you to reach and maintain physical and mental health.

Goal setting can be very beneficial when it comes to success in making changes. The many different goal-setting methods available can serve as a guide as you brainstorm and can help you achieve success in your goal-setting endeavor. By setting goals, you will see many benefits for both your mental and physical health.

For support in reaching your health-related goals, check out the links below:

References

  1. Alessandra, A. (2006). Goal setting strategies. Tony Alessandra.
  2. Anderson, C. (2010). Self-Management Goal Setting in a Community Health Center: The Impact of Goal Attainment on Diabetes Outcomes. Diabetes Spectrum, 23(2), 97–105. https://doi.org/10.2337/diaspect.23.2.97
  3. Bailey, M., Goldman, O., Bello, E., Chohan, M., Jeong, N., Winiger, V., Chun, E., Schipani, E., Kalmbach, A., Cheer, J., Balsam, P., & Simpson, E. (2018). An Interaction between Serotonin Receptor Signaling and Dopamine Enhances Goal-Directed Vigor and Persistence in Mice. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38(9), 2149–2162. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2088-17.2018
  4. Bjerke, M. B., & Renger, R. (2017). Being smart about writing SMART objectives. Evaluation and Program Planning, 61, 125-127. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.12.009
  5. Curricula and Handouts. (2018, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/resources/curriculum.html
  6. Macleod, L. (2013). Making SMART goals smarter. Physician Executive, 38, 68-70, 72.
  7. Martin, S., Heo, M., Jimenez, C. C., Lim, J., Lounsbury, D. W., Fredericks, L., . . . Wylie-Rosett, J. (2019). Personalizing the dietary guidelines: Use of a feedback report to help adolescent students plan health behaviors using a SMART goal approach. Child and Adolescent Obesity, 2(1), 47-62. doi:10.1080/2574254X.2019.1651169
  8. Oettingen, G. & Gollwitzer, P.M. (2001). Goal Setting and Goal Striving. Intraindividual processes. 329-347.
  9. Poulsen, A., Ziviani, J., Cuskelly, M., & Ryan, R. (2016). Goal setting and motivation in therapy: engaging children and parents. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  10. Rouillard, L. (2009). Goals and goal setting: achieve measurable results (4th edition.). Axzo Press.
  11. Shalley, C. (1995). Effects of Coaction, Expected Evaluation, and Goal Setting on Creativity and Productivity. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2), 483–503. https://doi.org/10.2307/256689
  12. Shilts, M. K., Horowitz, M., & Townsend, M. S. (2004). Goal Setting as a Strategy for Dietary and Physical Activity Behavior Change: A Review of the Literature. American Journal of Health Promotion, 19(2), 81–93. https://doi.org/10.4278/0890-1171-19.2.81
  13. Sinek, S. (2019). The golden circle presentation. Retrieved from https://simonsinek.com/commit/the-golden-circle
  14. Spruijt, Jan & Spanjaard, Tom & Demouge, Koen. (2013). The Golden Circle of Innovation: What Companies Can Learn from NGOs When It Comes to Innovation.
  15. Weinberg, R., Morrison, D., Loftin, M., Horn, T., Goodwin, E., Wright, E., & Block, C. (n.d.). Writing Down Goals: Does It Actually Improve Performance?, The Sport Psychologist, 33(1), 35-41. Retrieved Jan 29, 2021, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/tsp/33/1/article-p35.xml

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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