A goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.
Research on goal setting by Edwin A. Locke and his colleagues suggests that goal setting can serve as an effective tool for making progress when it ensures that group members have a clear awareness of what each person must do to achieve a shared objective. On a personal level, the process of setting goals allows individuals to specify and then work toward their own objectives (such as financial or career-based goals). Goal-setting comprises a major component of personal development and management.
Goals can be long-term, intermediate, or short-term. The primary difference is the time required to achieve them.
Short-term goals expect accomplishment in a short period of time, such as trying to get a bill paid in the next few days. The definition of a short-term goal need not relate to any specific length of time. In other words, one may achieve (or fail to achieve) a short-term goal in a day, week, month, year, etc. The time-frame for a short-term goal relates to its context in the overall time line that it is being applied to. For instance, one could measure a short-term goal for a month-long project in days; whereas one might measure a short-term goal for someone's lifetime in months or in years. Planners usually define short-term goals in relation to long-term goals.
Individuals can set personal goals. A student may set a goal of a high mark in an exam. An athlete might run five miles a day. A traveler might try to reach a destination-city within three hours. Financial goals are a common example, to save for retirement or to save for a purchase.
Managing goals can give returns in all areas of personal life. Knowing precisely what one wants to achieve makes clear what to concentrate and improve on, and often subconsciously prioritizes that goal.
Efficient goal work includes recognizing and resolving all guilt, inner conflict or limiting belief that might cause one to sabotage one's efforts. By setting clearly defined goals, one can subsequently measure and take pride in the accomplishment of those goals. One can see progress in what might have seemed a long, perhaps difficult, grind.
Achieving personal goals
Achieving complex and difficult goals requires focus, long-term diligence and effort (see Goal pursuit). Success in any field requires forgoing excuses and justifications for poor performance or lack of adequate planning; in short, success requires emotional maturity. The measure of belief that people have in their ability to achieve a personal goal also affects that achievement.
Long-term achievements rely on short-term achievements. Emotional control over the small moments of the single day makes a big difference in the long term.
Personal goal achievement and happiness
There has been a lot of research conducted looking at the link between achieving desired goals, changes to self-efficacy and integrity and ultimately changes to subjective well-being. Goal efficacy refers to how likely an individual is to succeed in achieving their goal. Goal integrity refers to how consistent one's goals are with core aspects of the self. Research has shown that a focus on goal efficacy is associated with well-being factor happiness (subjective well-being) and goal integrity is associated with the well-being factor meaning (psychology). Multiple studies have shown the link between achieving long-term goals and changes in subjective well-being; most research shows that achieving goals that hold personal meaning to an individual increases feelings of subjective well-being.
The self-concordance model is a model that looks at the sequence of steps that occur from the commencement of a goal to attaining that goal. It looks at the likelihood and impact of goal achievement based on the type of goal and meaning of the goal to the individual. Different types of goals impact both goal achievement and the sense of subjective well-being brought about by achieving the goal. The model breaks down factors that promote, first, striving to achieve a goal, then achieving a goal, and then the factors that connect goal achievement to changes in subjective well-being.
Goals that are pursued to fulfill intrinsic values or to support an individual's self-concept are called self-concordant goals. Self-concordant goals fulfill basic needs and align with what psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott called an individual's "True Self". Because these goals have personal meaning to an individual and reflect an individual's self-identity, self-concordant goals are more likely to receive sustained effort over time. In contrast, goals that do not reflect an individual's internal drive and are pursued due to external factors (e.g. social pressures) emerge from a non-integrated region of a person and are therefore more likely to be abandoned when obstacles occur.
"Those who attain self-concordant goals reap greater well-being benefits from their attainment. Attainment-to-well-being effects are mediated by need satisfaction, i.e., daily activity-based experiences of autonomy, competence, and relatedness that accumulate during the period of striving. The model is shown to provide a satisfactory fit to 3 longitudinal data sets and to be independent of the effects of self-efficacy, implementation intentions, avoidance framing, and life skills."
Furthermore, self-determination theory and research surrounding this theory shows that if an individual effectively achieves a goal, but that goal is not self-endorsed or self-concordant, well-being levels do not change despite goal attainment.
Goal management in organizations
In organizations, goal management consists of the process of recognizing or inferring goals of individual team-members, abandoning goals that are no longer relevant, identifying and resolving conflicts among goals, and prioritizing goals consistently for optimal team-collaboration and effective operations.
For any successful commercial system, it means deriving profits by making the best quality of goods or the best quality of services available to the end-user (customer) at the best possible cost. Goal management includes:
- Assessment and dissolution of non-rational blocks to success
- Time management
- Frequent reconsideration (consistency checks)
- Feasibility checks
- Adjusting milestones and main-goal targets
- Production goal
- Safety goal
- Economy goal
An organizational goal-management solution ensures that individual employee goals and objectives align with the vision and strategic goals of the entire organization. Goal-management provides organizations with a mechanism to effectively communicate corporate goals and strategic objectives to each person across the entire organization. The key consists of having it all emanate from a pivotal source and providing each person with a clear, consistent organizational-goal message so that every employee understands how their efforts contribute to an enterprise's success.
An example of goal types in business management:
- Consumer goals: this refers to supplying a product or service that the market/consumer wants
- Product goals: this refers to supplying an outstanding value proposition compared to other products perhaps due to the likes of quality, design, reliability and novelty
- Operational goals: this refers to running the organization in such a way as to make the best use of management skills, technology and resources
- Secondary goals: this refers to goals which an organization does not regard as priorities
- Big Hairy Audacious Goal
- Decision making software
- Direction of fit
- GOAL agent programming language
- Goal modeling
- Goal orientation
- Goal programming
- Goal–Question–Metric (GQM)
- Goal setting
- Goal theory
- Life planning
- Management by objectives
- Moving the goalposts
- Objectives and Key Results
- Regulatory focus theory
- Strategic management
- Strategic planning
- SWOT analysis
- The Goal (novel)
- The Jackrabbit Factor: Why You Can (book)
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Whilst the ideas represented by the acronym SMART are indeed broadly supported by goal theory (e.g. Locke, 1996), and the acronym SMART may well be useful in some instances in coaching practice, I think that the widespread belief that goals are synonymous with SMART action plans has done much to stifle the development of a more sophisticated understanding and use of goal theory within in the coaching community, and this point has important implications for coaching research, teaching and practice.
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Client goals are usually set on two or three levels. Long-term goals are the overall goals of the intervention, the reasons why the client is being offered help and the expected outcome of intervention... Intermediate goals may be clusters of skills to be developed, attitudes to be changed or barriers to be overcome on the way to achieving the main goals... Short-term goals are the small steps on the way to achieving major goals.
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