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Learn to Love Goal-Setting (Yes, Really!)

Topics: Career Advice

Some companies ask all of their employees to set goals at about the same time every year, while others might just bring up the idea of goal-setting during individual performance reviews. Other companies don’t talk much about goals at all, but most employees still have them just the same. Thinking about where we want to go next is an important step in helping us grow professionally. But, the process can be kind of a drag. Here are a few tips to help you maximize the experience.

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(Photo Credit: Sam Scrimschaw/Unsplash)

1. Do it for you.

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It can be tempting to pick goals you know you can accomplish without a doubt, particularly when an employer asks you to do some goal-setting work. But, keep in mind that not every employer allows workers to set their own goals; many simply assign them to their employees. If you’re allowed to choose your own direction, somewhat, it’s because your company and your boss want you to collaborate and engage with this process.

In these instances, setting a goal that you know you will reach can be appealing, because you want to show your manager you hit your mark, but it’s not fair to you or the process. The whole thing ends up being just a big waste of time for everyone involved when you play it that way.

For example, your goal shouldn’t be to land three new clients this quarter when you secretly know you already have them lined up. Again, this is turning the whole endeavor into a false-process and a waste of everyone’s time. Instead, set goals that you genuinely believe in and want to work toward. Your manager will appreciate your engagement and sincerity.

2. Aim high.

Research suggests that setting ambitious goals makes you happier than setting less ambitious ones. A study published in the December 2011 print edition of the Journal of Consumer Research reviewed two experiments in which participants were asked to set goals. Cecile K. Cho, who conducted the experiments, found that people who set higher goals were happier in the long run than people who set more conservative ones. She feels that one of the factors involved here is something she refers to as “value,” which means the perceived benefit that achieving the goal will bring to you.

“Safe bets, generally speaking, are less valuable ones,” Cho told Inc. “So once you’ve achieved the relatively easy goal, it’s only natural to think about what it’s cost you in terms of value — and that’s going to reduce your satisfaction.”

3. Build on the past.

To know where you’re going, you have to first understand where you’ve been. Often, the best goals are ones that build over time, taking you step-by-step from one point to another. Setting goals that are a part of a larger matrix could make you happier because each step brings you closer to where you’d like to be, in the broader sense. In other words, it’s not about this one small goal, which is just one part of a much bigger picture. It always feels good to have a plan and to be working steadily toward it.

Starting off your goal-setting work on the right foot will help you enjoy the entire process a little more. Once you’ve started, be sure to talk with others about your goals, and set smaller sub-goals to help you reach the finish line in the prescribed amount of time. Entering into this work earnestly is a great first step.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you feel it’s best to set realistic or ambitious goals? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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