Setting Goals–My Psychology Book Told Me So

As bloggers I think we all like to set about a million goals for ourselves then complete them as a captive audience reads along. Setting goals is healthy, encourages growth, and allows people to challenge themselves in ways they might not otherwise do. I love goals. I have my birthday goals that I set every year and I set smaller weekly and monthly goals for myself as well. Studies have shown that individuals who set goals for themselves and actively work to achieve them (whether or not they succeed at every individual line item) are more successful than people who do not. So, in the spirit of reading studies and feeling good about goal setting, I thought I’d share a bit of information I found when reading my psychology textbook yesterday (yes, I am the student who actually reads the textbook).

The Best Goals

A goal is most likely to improve your motivation and performance when three conditions are met:

The goal is specific Defining a goal vaguely, such as “doing your best” is as ineffective as having no goal at all. You need to be specific about what you are going to do and when you are going to do it: “I will write four pages of this paper today”

The goal is challenging but achievable You are apt to work hardest for tough but realistic goals. The highest, most difficult goals produce the highest levels of motivation and performance, unless, of course, you choose impossible goals that you can never attain.

The goal is framed in terms of getting what you want rather than avoiding what you do not want. Approach goals are positive experiences that you seek directly, such as getting a better grade or learning to scuba dive. Avoidance goals involve the effort to avoid unpleasant experiences, such as trying not to make a fool of yourself at parties or trying to avoid being dependent.

So I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, That’s great mal, but why should I care? Here’s why kids…

Are you ready?

Using these three SIMPLE rules can help you make goals for yourself that will catapult you into the goal achieving hall of fame. Let’s take some of my birthday goals and analyze…shall we?!

1) Read 25 Books
2) Sell 20 Handmade Items (4)

Both of these goals are fabulous. They are a bit of a challenge and have very specific requirements. I will either read 25 books or I will not read 25 books. I know very clearly how frequently I need to read in order to attain this goal. I know that if I want to sell 20 handmade things that I should really keep my Etsy shop stocked instead of being a busy college student who doesn’t have the time to put anything in it. Either way, with the number I know whether or not I have succeeded and I will know exactly how to adjust the goal in the future so it is more achievable (if I fail) or more of a challenge (if I pass with flying colors).

6) Participate in 12 activities that are out of my comfort zone

I had good intentions with this goal. See how I included a number in it thinking that made this more measurable? That’s cute Mal. This goal is really not measurable. How can I gauge whether something is truly out of my comfort zone? What if it’s just a little bit outside of that zone? Does that still count? I feel as though I’ve pushed the envelope in terms of trying new things in my creative and social life this year so to me that is an accomplishment but this goal is really ineffective. This is less of a goal and more of a reminder. I should type up “Step out of your comfort zone” and frame it rather than try to make it a goal.

20) Take two cooking classes

This goal seemed so…promising… I will definitely be able to take one cooking class but at this point, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford a second. I hate setting goals that require money because you can never be sure that you’ll have the funds to follow through. At this point in my life, I really don’t have extra cash that can go towards learning how to cook better. I’m okay with that but I wish I didn’t have to fail my goal because I was unrealistic about my financial situation.

I’ll wrap this up here because this post has gotten a bit long. However, I’d like to encourage you to re-evaluate the goals you’ve made in your own life. It can be extremely discouraging to constantly set goals that you can’t realistically achieve. Start small and work your way up to grandiose ideas. I love the small goals because they’re kind of like freebies :). I know I’ll be able to achieve them and it feels heavenly to cross them off my list.

This is part of my own little Happiness Project. I’d file this under “keep it clean”. Having goals set for myself that are unrealistic weigh on me and end up being emotional clutter. Sometimes its okay to shift your focus and let things go (another one of my resoultions!).

Any updates on your happiness projects? I’d love to hear!


5 thoughts on “Setting Goals–My Psychology Book Told Me So

  1. Ashley–don't beat yourself up! It's great that you're setting goals. There's no way we can accomplish EVERY goal we write down and with all the crazy changes in life our goals are bound to change. Even a few of my birthday goals are really things that I'm not all that interested in pursuing anymore, which is okay :). Feel proud that you're getting out there and giving it a try!!

  2. I love making goals and writing down things in black and white, it's almost as if they will be more attainable if they are written down and not stuck in my brain. However, I become more stressed out for not COMPLETING those goals, rather than being happy for getting halfway. Maybe it's time to re prioritize my time :).

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