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.


Taking a Closer Look at the Emotional Life of Goal Setting?

Goal setting, emotionsAt the turn of each year, the #KaizenBiz community looks inward and talks about goal setting and what each member hopes to accomplish. It was no different this year. Many of us are familiar with the SMART goal format (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and the variations about goal setting.

Now that it is mid-year, it is a good time to look at what goals were set and examining their emotional life.

There is an emotional life to goal setting

With goal setting, we often overlook or underestimate the emotional life of goal setting. There are so many frameworks that focus on action and the metrics. These are certainly key pieces to the process but what about desire, hope, fear and anticipation? Here are three frequent motivators for goals:

  • We want something
  • Someone else has told us we want something
  • We think we are supposed to want something

This is where it can get murky since not all of our motivations are clean. With social media, we might read a tweet or post from someone who is announcing some new endeavour or accomplishment. Sure, we might feel happy for their daring or their success while still questioning our own capability and decision-making. Imagine a conversation with yourself like this, “Good for them…should I be doing that? I’m not doing that. Maybe I should be doing that…” and we experience doubt.

Some people get through this moment of doubt quickly but there is still the moment of comparison. Comparing ourselves to others is really based on perception. Think of a time when you shared feeling unsure of yourself to someone and he/she responded by saying how confident you seem.  Meridith Fineman has a great post about comparing herself to these self-reports of awesome-ness and feeling inadequate.

Use the motivation stuff carefully and experience your emotions

No one wants to feel inadequate so we often seek something to motivate and inspire us to return to action. If you do a quick search on Twitter about motivation or inspiration, you will find lots of encouraging words and quotes. Winners don’t give up… be fearless…follow your dreams and many others are right there for you to read. And there is nothing wrong with these sentiments specifically. But in this moment is the real work – how we  how we manage our emotions through the ups and downs of goal achievement. This is true even when we live and work in cultures that define when and how emotions are expressed.

Boatload of information

Our idiosyncrasies, mindsets and human-ness will support or hinder our goal setting. Some areas to pay attention to:

  • Alignment between the personal & professional- It is tempting to have a “Work Me” and a “Home Me” but this could trigger cognitive dissonance..
  • Your imagination- Visualizing your success (some call this daydreaming) allows for you to imagine the hopes and fears embedded in the goal. The negative side is that being too positive can lead to a psychological phenomenon that makes us feel as if we already achieved the goal before we start.
  • Avoiding commitment- Trying to straddle the desire to take risks with the desire to avoid risk dilutes the goal setting process.
  • Open or closed mindsets- Carol Dweck’s research about mindsets fits so well here. The emotion of confidence is fueled by belief that we are or are not change agents.

Nakedly stating “I want this” (to ourselves)

That would be quite a statement at the outset of goal setting. The accompanying emotions could highlight what is driving the desire for a particular goal at a particular time. Maybe even foster more innovative thinking about the ultimate end of the goal. Our answers will come when we take a closer look at the emotional life of goal setting.

Join us Friday, June 14th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT on Twitter (use the hashtag #KaizenBiz) and add your insights and expertise to this conversation:

How much of our emotions are tied into our goals?

What effect could avoiding our emotions have on achieving our goals?

Does the increase in distractability change how we achieve our goals?

How are emotions like envy and frustration used in goal setting?

What advantage would be present if you acknowledged your emotions while setting goals?

What goal did you set at the beginning of the year and how close are you to accomplishing it?

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 business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.



KaizenBiz Celebrates With Goal Setting for 2013

Celebrating KaizenBiz community members, goal settingAs the year ends and a new one is on the horizon, it’s time to stop and celebrate the good stuff that happened. And just as naturally, it’s good to consider what goals  you want to achieve next.

*Please join us Friday, December 21st at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we celebrate with goal setting. Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

To get the celebration started, I asked members of the Kaizen Biz community to share their success stories. Since we have members from a variety of places, I included where they are based. Continue reading