Goal-setting: Need to know

While researching people who perform exceptionally well in HR, we discovered that they create goals for themselves at two levels.

They simultaneously work towards relatively fixed and highly motivating, long-term goals, and flexible, frequently reviewed short-term goals. Other studies have confirmed that people who combine the two are most likely to achieve their goals.

A long-term goal that is not backed up with clear, short-term actions will remain an unattainable dream, and it is easy to lose focus when short-term goals are set without a clear idea of the bigger purpose they are serving.

A big, detailed, meaningful goal creates a motivational vision to move towards and helps keep us on track, while weekly or daily goals set with the larger objective in mind move us forward inch by inch. As circumstances inevitably change around us, we can review and amend our short-term goals to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves or overcome obstacles that arise, without losing sight of where we are heading.

Let’s say you enjoy writing and would like to do more of it. One way to do this would be to set yourself a number of short-term goals: buy some special notebooks, get up two hours earlier than usual, and write three pages every day. The chances are that it would work for a while, and then some other competing short-term pressure would get in the way, and you would gradually lose momentum.

Your chances of success will be greatly increased if you set a specific, long-term goal – for example, to have published a best-selling book on goal-setting by the end of 2010. Now you have something to aim for. You know what you’re going to write about and when you want to achieve it by. Your short-term goals can then be aligned with that aim: research the current market find a unique angle plan the outline write chapter one approach publishers and agents write chapter two and so on. Faced with competing pressures, the big goal is meaningful enough to keep you focused, and if you suddenly hear about an opportunity to attend a self-help authors’ conference, you can add it to your short-term goals.

Looking at your current goals, do you have a balance of big, exciting long-term goals and clear short-term goals to get you there? Making sure you do will greatly increase your chances of achieving your aims.

Jan Hills, partner, Orion partners

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