setting goals

Achieve Your Goals With 3 Easy Steps

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Science has shown us that there are ways of framing our goals that improve our chances of seeing the journey through to completion.

By Samuel Kett

As busy teachers, our personal goals often get pushed down the priority list, leaving us without much time to dedicate to our own interests and pursuits. However, many of us do have hopes and dreams outside of teaching that we would like to embrace. It’s so important for us to give time to personal development, our students deserve teachers who are striving and thriving in their lives outside of teaching. There is now a lot of research into the science of goals which show us that the way our goal is framed when we write it, impacts our statistical chances of achieving that goal.

To get started I suggest you write down a goal for yourself now, or use a goal you have already set for yourself. We can use the Goal Framework below to assess the quality of our goal. Positive goals theory shows us that when our goals are aligned to the the left hand side of the Goal Framework below, then we have more chance of enjoying the journey and achieving the goal (Biswas-Diener & Dean, 2007).

setting goals
Image take from Langley Group Institute Workbook, Diploma of Positive Psychology & Well-Being

Goal Orientation

Look at the goal you have written for yourself. Is it positively or negatively oriented. Does it include negative vocabulary like “stop” or “don’t”. Does it make you feel positive when you read it, or does it make you feel a bit worried or doubtful? Try to change the vocabulary so that you are using more positive vocabulary. Another thing to consider is the reason for your goal. Is it being pursued because its pleasurable or because it helps others; or is it being pursued because you “have to do it” or because failure would lead to a loss of self-esteem. Framing your goal so that is focused on the pleasurable element of the journey and how achieving your goal will help others, will raise your chances of achieving your goal and provide higher levels of happiness and well-being. Goals that are compulsory or based around avoiding failure, are less likely to produce positive emotions which are an integral part of striving towards our goals.

Here is an example of editing your goal so that it is framed in a way that orients it towards the positive:

  • Lose 10kg by Christmas.

Could change to:

  • Feel fit and healthy by weighing a maximum of ??kg by Christmas.

Goal Content

Is the content of your goal framed in a way that focuses on your personal growth or caring for others? Or, is it more targeted at improving your hierarchal position or gaining more power? When the content of our goals are related to the former it creates higher levels of wellbeing and happiness than goals which are more focused on position or power.

Here is an example of editing your goal even further so that its content is more focused on personal growth or caring for others.

  • Feel fit and healthy by weighing a maximum of ??kg by Christmas.

Could change to:

  • Gain confidence, be in a better headspace for my family and friends and feel fit and healthy by weighing a maximum of ??kg by Christmas.

Here we have made the focus of the goal the “Why”. Why do we want to lose weight? Confidence and family! This is much more powerful then simply focusing on the numbers or dwelling on where we are at right now.

Goal Motivation

Goals that you are intrinsically motivated to achieve create higher levels of well-being and happiness then goals which are focused on getting some kind of extrinsic reward at the end. This is less about rewriting your goal, and more about just ensuring that you are feeling excited and wanting to get stuck into your goal by simply reading it. You are not relying on a reward at the end of it to motivate you, you can enjoy the jouney.

In Short

When our goals are framed in a way so that they provide higher levels of happiness and well-being when working towards them, then we raise the likelihood of achieving them. A good way to know if your goal is positively framed and authentic is when you read it you feel energised and excited and ready to get to work on it right away. If it doesn’t quite feel like that yet, keep rewording it until it does, or maybe reflect on whether that goal is something YOU actually want to achieve and not simply trying to live up to the expectation of others. On one last note, your goals may end up turning from one short sentence into a long sentence or even a few sentences and that’s all good.

Your Turn

It would be really interesting to get your thoughts on this and even better if you could share some of your reworked goals. Do you have any tips for setting goals that you could share with us? Please leave your thoughts, suggestions and examples in the comments below.


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