Goal Setting – Why do we do it?

I felt like writing some thoughts around the concept of goal setting after hearing some comments about the process that made me think. As a staff we all have to set a goal and record the inquiry process around the interventions we make in order to achieve the goal. The comments that got me thinking were along the lines of “it’s what we do on a daily basis anyway” and “we goal set naturally, why write it down, that’s just compliance.”

My own recent experience with goal setting provides a significant rebuttal to these thoughts. But first, this thought:

…goals provide an end point or target, against which we can determine performance successful or otherwise. We aspire to goal achievement – goals represent our progress over time and when achieved, provide a sense of completion and satisfaction. In this way, goals are integral to giving meaning and purpose to our lives. (Vorhauser-Smíth, 2011, 6)

I believe in the aspirational power of goals and their ability to stir depths of motivation that would otherwise be untouched by simply going about what we do. They allow us to create worthy interventions and can be naturally integrated into our lives to create better outcomes.

My journey to complete a half marathon in under two hours would not have been successful if it were not for my goal setting. The way I recorded progress, made action plans, implemented research was importantly linked to my goal. But the most powerful part of this was the way that all that recording and preparation build my psychological state up to a point where I was prepared to do nothing other than succeed. This was so important during the race where I was so often forced to battle the temptation of walking or stopping. The power and intrinsic motivation I had built up was directly linked to my goal and it gave me the power to succeed.

The final word on the matter can go to Eileen Piggot Irvine who on the topic of goal setting states:

I have yet to encounter a situation Where this expectation has not resulted in higher performance or enhanced self-efficacy!

It makes perfect sense to me.


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