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.