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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
to be specific with your goals, January 6, 2008, 2D.
At this time of
year, it is common to hear people talk about setting New Years resolutions. Becoming healthier by eating better, increasing
activity and fitness levels, and losing weight are popular resolutions. As common as it is to set New Years
resolutions, it seems almost as common to hear about people breaking their resolutions. Somehow, the good intentions behind many
peoples resolutions fail to ever materialize into sustained change.
Theory, a popular motivation model, helps give explanation to why people hold to or fail
to meet their resolutions. Research on goal
setting and performance has identified that goals, to be motivating, should be specific,
challenging, accepted, and provide feedback.
I want to
lose 10 pounds by Valentines Day is a much more specific goal than, Over the
next year, I want to get rid of the spare tire around my middle. Goal specificity gives people exact targets and
timelines against which to measure their performance.
Accomplishing a series of small, incremental, and short-term goals gives the
goal setter the ability to see movement toward the overall goal.
Goals that are
challenging are more motivating than goals that are too hard or too easy. Setting a fitness goal of being able to run a mile
in four minutes might be unrealistically difficult for many resolution makers and
eventually cause them to give up prematurely in frustration. Setting a fitness goal of being able to run a mile
in 20 minutes is probably too easy for many people and would not drive people to focus,
train, and significantly alter their behaviors to attain that goal.
People do things
that they believe in and find important to do. When
goals are not accepted by the people who are responsible for meeting them, performance is
less likely to occur than when people endorse and accept the responsibility for making
them happen. If people do not accept
ownership and responsibility for meeting their goals, they will be more likely to give up
on them when distractions and difficulties arise.
When people know
how their current actions and levels of performance stack up against expected performance,
they can sustain acceptable performance or make corrective actions to bring unacceptable
performance back into line with expectations. Someone
who has lost only two pounds at the end of January while striving toward a Lose 10
pounds by Valentines Day resolution should realize that corrective actions are
needed. Waiting until Valentines Day to first
step on a scale does not permit the goal setter to make corrective actions or maintain
successful strategies during the performance period.
For resolutions to
become realities, they should be specific, challenging (that is, neither too easy nor too
hard), accepted, and have ways of measuring attained performance against predefined
standards. The things that lead to
successfully attaining New Years resolutions are the same things that contribute to
goal attainment in organizations by individuals and groups.
If one of your New Years resolutions is to accomplish greater things
at work, try implementing the principles of Goal-Setting Theory.
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