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Goal setting - Reaching your full potential.

You have may heard about goals and have already used them in some shape or form. Quite probably your experiences maybe from a work context, and quite possibly they felt pointless and demotivating.

If this is your experience, do not be put off from setting meaningful personal goals. If you are passionate about achieving something, the following will help you start the process and your journey to achieving your goals.

Set specific goals

Goals such as ‘to be better’ or ‘be my best’ are almost as pointless as having no goals at all.

Creating goals that are clear and specific are most effective (Locke & Latham, 2002) and you my well have already come across the term SMART Goals standing for: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. To create a well formed goal check that is has these five elements.

Set realistic goals

There is a relationship between goal difficulty and performance. Goals that are easy to achieve will not push you enough to reach your full potential. However, unrealistic goals that exceed your ability will lead to failure and disappointment. Kyllo & Landers (1995) identified that moderately difficult goals lead to the best performance. Create goals that stretch, but not snap you.

Set short-term and long-term goals

It is quite easy to set a long-term goal, for example, to run 5km in under 18 minutes by the end of the coming season. It is also quite easy to lose your motivation when the goal is so far away.

Short-term goals are the steppingstones guiding you to your long-term goal. Each step taken builds on the previous and provides more manageable goals to tick off on your way to achieving your long-term goal.

The use of both short-term and long-term goals have been found to improve both motivation and performance (Weinberg, 2001). Use both types in your goal setting to keep motivated and stay on track.

Types of goals

In addition to short-term and long-term goals, three further types of goals should be used together to maximise effectiveness: Process, Performance, and Outcome.

Process goals focus on the ‘how’. These might be associated with technique development, the number of hours training to complete each week, or adhering to a training plan.

Performance goals focus on what is to be achieved for both your short-term and long-term goals. For example, to achieve a performance long-term goal of running 5k in under 18 minutes, your short-term performance goals might be to improve your 5k time by 10 seconds each month.

Outcome goals, whilst being the most popular, have been shown to be less effective than performance goals (Burton et al. 2002). The main reason for this is at best you only have limited control over your goal. For example, an outcome goal of winning a particular race will be dependant not only on your performance, but also on the performance of all the other competitors, which you have no control over.

In this example a more effective and motivating goal would be a combination of both performance and outcome goals, ‘to achieve a personal best time and win the race’.


If you really want to achieve something set several short-term goals that support your long-term goal.

Make your goals SMART.

When considering making goals ‘realistic’ ensure to consider who else you need to ‘buy into’ your goals and be part of your support group. This could be your family by agreeing how much and when you need to train, and when you will be spending time with them.

Avoid only setting outcome goals. Instead use a combination of the three types of goals to maximise effectiveness.

Finally ensure that your goal is something you are passionate about. Make sure you understand why you want to achieve it, what it means to you and commit yourself to achieving it.

Prioritise those elements of your life that move you along your steppingstones.

Have fun setting your goals, don’t be afraid to amend them and celebrate success.

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