A goal without a plan is just a wish. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s the time of year when we set plans to be our best selves for the year ahead, by improving our physical, professional, social, financial and/or mental wellbeing. How can we improve the chances that our goals will unfold and result in the outcome we hope for at the beginning of the year? Reaching and achieving goals can feel insurmountable even when we have the best of intentions. It takes persistence, accountability, motivation and planning.
There’s something satisfying about crossing an item off a to-do list. So why is it that a lot of us don’t take the opportunity to apply the same concept of making a list for our goals? Wouldn’t it be just as rewarding to place a completed check mark next to a goal? We’ve all experienced the feelings of pride, joy, excitement and relief that accomplishment can bring, and those feelings can help our willingness to put forth effort towards developing plans and goals.
A 1968 article by Dr. Edwin Locke, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives” found that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback1. Dr. Locke went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal which, in turn, improved performance.
You might be wondering, where do I start to accomplish my goals? How can I make these wishes realities? No matter how big or small your goal, making change requires planning, and SMART goal setting can be helpful2. Follow these guidelines to setting SMART goals to avoid them falling through the cracks and never getting accomplished.
SMART goals are:
Don’t be vague. Your goals should be clear and unambiguous. Specific goals produce a higher level of output. Break down hurdles by having single, precise, and idealistic end results.
Make sure you can measure how you will achieve your goal, by making your goal quantifiable, include target dates and units of measurements. Measurements such as how much, how often, or how many will allow you to track your progress can help keep you motivated.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, because your motivation relies on success and hope. Breaking down your main objective into smaller sub-goals and getting feedback from your support network can help determine if the end result is attainable within the parameters you have set for yourself. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves. Find a happy medium.
If your goals are not relevant to you, they will likely dissipate. Avoid becoming bored or disinterested by ensuring you are passionate and energized about reaching your potential. The significance of anticipated accomplishment will help keep you interested, and in turn, motivated to follow through.
Place your goals and sub-goals within time frames and stick to it! Re-adjusting may be necessary.
Remember to have a strategy for staying accountable. Make sure to write them down. Thinking about your goals and having them in mind is not enough. You will need to evaluate your plan and re-adjusting will likely be necessary. Remember to translate your sub-goals and goals to your calendar and schedule appropriately.
Finally, it is important to highlight and acknowledge your victories and challenges along the way. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and feedback from your support network. Here are UBC, we are incredibly fortunate to work in a highly collaborative environment and have many services to help and support us.
How UBC can help:
Articles to help with goal setting:
- Understanding and Setting SMART Goals
- How do I get there from here? Setting and Attaining Career Goals
Accessing EFAP for help with:
Contact Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider for help with health coaching, fitness & nutrition support.
- Locke, EA. Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Elsevier, 1968, 3(2):157-189.
- Fuhrmann, CN, et al. Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success. Science Careers, 2013.