Goal Setting Advantage – Legend or logic? Part 3 of 4

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In this part 3 of the article, we look at some real research to find out what makes a difference in goal-setting.

In Part 2, we found that there is support for the concept of SMART goals – but not why is it so important that we ‘write’ them down? There are some who suggest that writing something down increases commitment to the goal but the evidence is anecdotal. For some individuals, the act of writing something down assists clarity through a conscious process because they consider something written to be a personal commitment. Does that mean it is true for everyone? To help answer this, we undertook primary research to mirror the mythical Yale Study.

Through a simple questionnaire, respondents were asked if they had set goals for themself on leaving school, college or university, when this was and if they had written it down. They were then asked to estimate their total personal wealth now. The results are quite shocking.

Results from our survey

215 individuals completed the online questionnaire over a seven week period. Respondents were mostly UK-based (80%), with further respondents from Asia (11%) and the USA (9%). This researcher invited respondents through social networks, Ecademy and LinkedIn and direct contact with companies across the UK, Asia and US. 70% of respondents are in full-time employment, and the remainder either self-employed or business owners. Only results shown to be significant at 0.05 are discussed.

At the end of their formal education, 69.8% had a personal goal of whom only 11.2% had written their goal down. Goals and personal wealth.

Of those that had written their goal, their average personal wealth is GBP115000, whereas those who had not written their goal down, their average personal wealth was GBP295000. That’s more than two and a half times as much!

Completely contrary to the supposed Yale Study. We asked respondents when they left formal education and analysed this against their estimated personal wealth.

Those leaving formal education in the 1970’s have a average wealth of GBP475000, 80’s GBP195000 and 90’s… GBP325000! It seems reasonable that those who have been in the workforce longer would have greater personal wealth and so it is… almost. The anomaly appears to be those who left formal education during the 80’s.

Those leaving in the 70’s have generated on average 13,500 each year since leaving. 80’s grads a miserly 7,800 and those bright young things from the 90’s, a whopping 21,600! So what’s going on? It may have something to do with SMART goals. SMART goals and personal wealth.

Those who set Specific Measurable only goals average a low 25,000. – Add Time-bound to specific and measurable and this goes up to 50,000. – Just Attainable and Realistic goals – now this is averaging 150,000.

Specific, Measurable, realistic and time-bound and we rise rapidly to 475,000.

Go the whole hog, Specific, measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound – and we reach 605,000.

We seem to be finding some useful answers here. Don’t worry so much about writing your goals down, just so long as they’re SMART. So is that it? No. There’s a couple of very interesting additional significant statistics in our survey. They deal with the type of goal. Goal focus and personal wealth Respondents were asked if they were willing to share their own personal goal, 60% did so and these break down into four main focuses: Career, Lifestyle,Money or Ability. We also asked how satisfied respondents were with their achievement.

For those with a Lifestyle goal focus, average wealth is 95,000 and ‘satisfied’ with their achievement. – A Career focus, average wealth is just over 100,000 and ‘somewhat satisfied’.

A Money focus, average wealth is 162,500 and ‘satisfied’ and lastly, – An ‘Ability’ focus, average wealth is 780,000 and ‘very satisfied’! Go on, have a guess on the statistical conclusion… yep, those who left formal education in the 90’s focus more on ‘Ability’, 80’s focus on career and lifestyle, whilst the 70’s predominantly Money. Surely a reflection of the environment of the time. The great thing about focusing on what you are ‘able’ to do will help the goal-setting process be more effective.

Following Locke and Latham’s findings that ability to achieve the goal moderates performance – too difficult and uncommitted individuals do not perform, whereas, stretching yet within my potential ability aids commitment to goal attainment. Respondents were asked if they were willing to share their own personal goal, 60% did so and these break down into four main focuses: Career, Lifestyle, Money or Ability. We also asked how satisfied respondents were with their achievement. The first three are ‘Outcome’ goals – that is, they specify a particular tangible outcome.

Ability focus is a ‘Performance’ goal – such goals focus on an ability or capability of the individual. – For those with a Lifestyle goal focus, average wealth is 95,000 and ‘satisfied’ with their achievement. – A Career focus, average wealth is just over 100,000 and ‘somewhat satisfied’

A Money focus, average wealth is 162,500 and ‘satisfied’ and lastly, – An ‘Ability’ focus, average wealth is 780,000 and ‘very satisfied’! Go on, have a guess on the statistical conclusion… yep, those who left formal education in the 90’s focus more on ‘Ability’, 80’s focus on career and lifestyle, whilst the 70’s predominantly Money. Surely a reflection of the environment of the time. The great thing about focusing on what you are ‘able’ to do will help the goal-setting process be more effective. Following Locke and Latham’s findings that ability to achieve the goal moderates performance – too difficult and uncommitted individuals do not perform, whereas, stretching yet within my potential ability aids commitment to goal attainment.

Yet there are still some issues with outcome and performance goals. In the final part 4 of this articleFree Reprint Articles, we’ll discuss some of those issues and consider a potential solution.

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