The Goals Workout

Ever since her initial publication in the Harvard Business Review online, the findings of Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on success have been on my mind and in my work with clients.

In particular her finding that successful people get very specific when setting goals.

She wrote:

"When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. “Lose 5 pounds” is a better goal than “lose some weight,” because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll “eat less” or “sleep more” is too vague — be clear and precise. “I’ll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you’ve actually done it."

Get specific. Anyone who is into goal setting has already known this. It is part of the old SMART formula where the S means Specific.

But in the context of her research, this aspect of success behavior has a new significance. And it has triggered an innovation for me in my practice. I call it my "Goals Workout" and I've been refining it with clients.

Here is an outline of the process:

First a brief intro on the behavior of successful people as per Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson's research. This puts the idea of goals into the spotlight in a new way.

Second I ask my clients to write down one of their goals, suggesting that it be one of importance to them.

Third I raise the topic of realism. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson found that successful people have a realistic perspective. This includes recognition of obstacles. So I introduce the concept of driving and restraining forces, and the Force Field diagram tool. I then ask my clients to take a few minutes to write down, underneath their goal, their driving and hindering forces.

Fourth I move toward action steps by introducing the Start Stop Continue method to help identify actions that can increase movement toward goals. I then ask them to take a few minutes to identify some action steps that are Starts, Stops or Continues.

The next step is to get people into small groups of three to five members in each. The instructions are simple. Taking turns, each person should share the goal they wrote down. Share the driving and restraining forces. Share the action steps, identifying whether each is a Start, a Stop, or a Continue. And then invite the other members of the group to give input.

The outcomes from this process? Greater specificity in goal setting. Greater clarity. Higher energy.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday September 19, 2013


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