Beyond SMART: 3 Top Tips for Successful Goal-Setting and Achievement


Happy New Year! As this is often a time when we reflect on our past achievements and set new goals for the future, I’d like to share with you some of the latest positive psychology research which you may find helpful.

  • Focus on creating approach goals

According to psychology research, avoidance goals (those with negative outcomes which we work to avoid) are stressful because constantly monitoring negative possibilities drains our energy and enjoyment, eventually taking its toll on our well-being. On the other hand if we set approach goals i.e. those with positive outcomes which we work towards, our focus is on achieving the presence of something positive, which is more energizing and enjoyable. According to psychologists this ultimately leads to greater well-being too.

  • Increase your intrinsic motivation

Being intrinsically motivated (i.e. doing something because you want to, not because you have to) is an essential part of goal achievement. Intrinsic motivation can be increased by ensuring that, in identifying and pursuing your goal, three basic psychological needs are met:  i) control, ii) competence and iii) connection. If your goal is not freely chosen, how might you change it so that you increase the amount of control that you have?  To increase your level of competence, why not seek regular and constructive feedback on your performance from a trusted friend, colleague or mentor? And how might you ensure that you have positive support from those around you in achieving your goal?

  • Develop your self-control and commitment

Fortunately for us, self-control is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. This means that being more disciplined in one domain of your life can help you develop greater self-control in other areas. The key to self-control is to try to create new habits which simply become part of your day-to-day routine; after a while you don’t need much self-control at all.

Research into goal commitment suggests that it makes a difference to your self-motivation whether you focus on the progress you’ve already made, or whether you focus on the things that you have left to achieve.

• If you are fully committed to your goal, you can maintain your self-motivation by focusing on what you have left to do

•  But if your commitment is less than 10 out of 10, you can increase your self-motivation by focusing on what you have already accomplished.

Finally, remember that not all goals are equal in the well-being stakes: make sure yours are intrinsic, congruent and in harmony with each other.

Image courtesy of lululemon athletica

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