Yesterday at a staff meeting I pitched the idea of our setting goals for our psychology education programs. My argument, in a nutshell: Goals lead to plans, which lead to focused behavior, which leads to achievement. I mentioned that I set goals with my psychotherapy clients and I set goals for the courses I teach. Goals are good, I argued.
The best goals are measurable ones. With a client, the goal might be that she moves into the normal range with regard to level of social anxiety. With teaching a university class, the goal might be to earn student ratings at a certain numerical level. For research the goal might be to publish a malouff’s dozen papers in a year. You may have heard of a Baker’s dozen, which equals 13 — the bakers show how nice they are. A malouff’s dozen equals 11 — on the theory that I always give people a little less than they would expect. That digression is my joke for this blog entry. All these goals are measurable. So I can tell how I am doing and make adjustments as needed.
Not everyone likes goals. Some individuals worry that they might not achieve their goals. That risk, of course, is part of what makes goals fun and motivating. Setting realistic goals creates a fair chance of achieving the goals — with the needed effort. Other individuals say live in the moment — seek nothing and you will find much. I like this sentiment. I often feel totally in the moment when I exercise or read. Perhaps it is best to set goals at times and to live in the moment at times — that could be part of a life of moderation.
What goals have you set in recent years? Which have you reached? How does goal setting help you? What are your goals now?
John Malouff, PhD, JD
Associate Professor of Psychology