Goal Setting, Goal Achievement and the Influence of Emotions

The curious thing about goals is that they are both easy and hard to set. On one hand, you goals, goal setting, goal achievement, emotionsknow you want something more, different, better or inspirational. On the other hand, there is the day-in, day-out dedication that sometimes seems to bear little fruit or seems futile in the face of obstacles. Emotions do play a role in what goals we set and what motivates us to achieve them.

Please join us Friday, January 10, at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Goal Setting.” Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Quick review of popular models

Anyone who has spent any time with goal setting is probably familiar with the SMART model. This goal model was first mentioned by George T. Doran in 1981 so it has been around for some time. If you need a quick refresher:

S: specific

M: measurable

A: attainable

R: relevant

T: time-bound

In 2010, another model was presented by Mark Murphy in his book, HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be. Murphy contends that people don’t succeed with their goals because most goal setting systems lack an emotional component which brings investment and commitment. In his model, the elements include:

Heartfelt:  purpose, meaning and emotional investment

Animated: spark imagination and images of what the goal looks like

Required: there is a need to meet the goal

Difficult: brings you out of your comfort zone and requires significant effort

Do you remember when all goals were supposed to be BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)? Murphy’s model and Jim Collins’ model both invoke an emotional aspect. In each model, there is the underlying question of “what is most important to you and why?.”

Meanwhile, another conversation is going on at the same time

Jim Clear writes in Forget Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead. that goals are messages to ourselves that we are “not good enough”. There may be something to this as people are much more attuned to problems. Goals often focus on how we want to improve, increase or decrease something. This unspoken negative message, according to Clear, reduces our happiness and sets up an “if…then” emotional context for us. As in, “if I had 10% more revenue, then I would be happy with my business.”

But what if the underlying conversation isn’t really about how bad we are?

The underlying conversation in goal setting is often one of values. When you sit down with a strategic plan for your business or a self-development plan for yourself, you are identifying what is most important to you. There may be a value around wealth, power, community, intellectual challenge, competition, health and so much more that you are really trying to manifest in your behavior. The goal is the vehicle for this value and bringing us closer to our own internal alignment.

Goal setting is not goal achievement

It is a fairly straight forward process to set a goal. You identify what you want to be different and that’s it. The goal is probably more clear when it  includes specificity and a time frame. After all, saying you want more customers is a goal but saying you want 15% more customers in 3 months makes that goal much easier to focus your efforts and monitor progress.

Regardless of what model you use when setting a goal, it is really about the work of the goal that brings positive or negative experiences. It is often overlooked that goal setting is really a plan for change and change is uncomfortable. Even if you are someone who seeks new experiences and tolerates change well, there are moments when you realize you don’t know what you are doing or it is more involved than you expected. This moment of tension can slow or interrupt progress.

But it isn’t all about managing your response to crises. Many goals include new ways of behaving which essentially creates new habits. As Art Markman (past guest on #KaizenBiz) reminds us, our brains have preferred pathways that use less energy so we have to “fight our brains” to do new things. This includes our assumptions and cognitive biases. Ways of thinking can be just as much a habit as ways of behaving. The challenge here would be noticing emotional responses like “ugh…I’m too busy to do X today” and noting what thinking pattern is accompanying this. It cannot be denied that people are far more likely to set and achieve a goal that has a deeper meaning and purpose to it. This level of emotional investment could even provide a buffer for any difficulties we might encounter. Perhaps emotions are a tool for successful goal setting and achievement

What do you think? Does the emotional quality of our goals inspire us to achieve? Join us Friday, January 10, 2014 for our annual Goal Setting discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What did you achieve in 2013?

What makes one goal more engaging than another?

What role does emotion play in goal setting?

What messages do we send ourselves when we choose certain goals?

How necessary is it to have a system or a process  to maintain focus and/or motivation for goal achievement?

To what degree do you believe that goals must invoke an emotional response to facilitate achievement?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, small business coach and executive coach, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.


Creating Workable Strategies To Encourage Genuine Productivity

Productivity strategies, Self-awarenessAre you in an organization that is “doing more with less?” Individual productivity becomes more important in that environment. But rather than just saying, “do more”, it is important to understand what contributes to productivity in the first place. Productivity is closely aligned with habit formation, goal achievement and will  power. When we understand these, we can find ways to encourage genuine productivity.

*Please join us Friday, October 5th at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Creating Workable Solutions To Encourage Genuine Productivity”. Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Some days it feels like an exercise in futility

Ever had one of the those days where you look back and you feel as if you got nothing done. What did I do for 10 hours today? Dr. Gloria Mark, associate professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, studies how work gets done. In her research on information workers, she has discovered that people work in uninterrupted time for minutes in each day. Yes, minutes a day, not hours. While there are external interruptions like phone calls or people physically talking to us, a significant portion of what interferes with productivity is self-interruption. She also discovered that self-interruption becomes a habit.


Quite a lot of our behavior is a habit. We tend to follow the same routine everyday so it would make sense that we’re accustomed to checking our email, favorite social media sites or even suddenly remembering we forgot to do a task. We’ve built up neural pathways for these behaviors and they become automatic. (Even as I was writing this post, I found myself wanting to check my email or read another intriguing psychological study.) Essentially, we’re creating the interruption that lowers our productivity which causes us stress.

Goal achievement

But productivity is more than our attention span or our habits. The way we set goals and achieve them has an impact on our productivity. One of the more surprising findings to come out of research on goal achievement is that fantasizing how awesome it will be when you finish a task actually diminishes the likelihood that you will finish said task.

Will power

So, you might start thinking you can muscle through tasks so you hit your productivity goals. However, maintaining productivity depends on our ability to persist and control our tendencies to follow our habits rather than our conscious decisions. In other words, will power. Recent studies on will power has discovered that it is more akin to a muscle than a cognitive event.As we engage in email, online destinations, external interruptions, stress and other emotions, interpersonal interactions, hunger, fatigue and a host of other things, we constantly exercise our will power. Trying to get refocused on a task after interruptions is compromised and it takes will power to get ourselves back on track. This will power gets depleted over time and distraction and procrastination can set in.

 But there are deadlines to meet and quotas to fill

It might be as simple as changing how we work. That’s not to say it would be easy but it could be simple. With so much advice out there, the simple solution is to find your way to work. One of my colleagues, Elaine Rogers, makes a good point in her post about time management by saying that it is more important to be effective rather than efficient. And then there is Leo Batauta’s recommendation that we “Toss Productivity Out“. We know interruptions are going to happen. Traditional tips for staying productive are either being ignored or do not work for most people. We’re not paying enough attention to habit, goal achievement and will power to support effective productivity.

It might be as simple as mindfulness. When doing a task, be present with that task. When you are not able to be present, discover why your attention has wandered. It might be time to stop working. When we increase our awareness of how we, individually, operate, it is much easier to find the strategy that works for us.

What do we not understand about productivity?

What would happen if we allowed ourselves unproductive time?

How would you use mindfulness to support productivity?

What practical strategies have you observed working to encourage productivity?

How could workplaces be designed to maximize productivity?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth and small business coach/trainer, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.