What is Goal Setting

Category: Task Management.

Regardless of if you’re a junior employee or you’re performing a senior role, you have undoubtedly been asked to set goals for yourself or others. While this process might sound simple, particularly because we’ve all been taught to do this since elementary school, understanding how to set goals that you’ll achieve is tricky.

So how do you start the process of goal setting, and how do you plan goals that are achievable?

Why is Goal Setting Important?

Whether you’ve got plans for your career or there’s something you want to accomplish in your personal life, goal setting is a vital part of the journey. Goals don’t just give us something to work towards, but also a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Goal setting, and the benefits that it has for productivity and self-confidence, is also backed up by scientific research. Research has found that goal setting enhances employee motivation and commitment (Latham, 2004), individual sense of well-being (MacLeod, Coates, and Hetherton, 2008), and perceived control over our lives (Vincent, Boddana, and MacLeod, 2004).

In addition, the more valued and/or difficult a goal is perceived to be, the more success we experience when we achieve that goal (Latham and Locke, 2006).

However, that’s not to say that the simple act of setting goals is enough. Rather, it’s important to set goals that are achievable, meaningful, and realistic.

How to Set Goals You’ll Follow

If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that you’ve set goals in your career before and they haven’t been achieved. On the other hand, you may have set goals for other people to achieve in their jobs, and they haven’t been able to meet those goals.

You should know that it’s not necessarily the goal that’s unachievable, but it’s that the goal-setting process didn’t set either yourself or the other person up for success.

Be Specific


Specific goals act as a sort of GPS for your life. And just like the GPS on your phone needs a specific destination to be useful, external goals really only work when you have a specific outcome in mind.

Mark Manson

When you’re setting goals, it’s easy to be vague about what you want to achieve. You might, for example, be aiming for a promotion to Recruitment Manager or Employee Relations Manager.

However, it’s not enough to simply state what endpoint you want to work towards. Instead, you need to outline the steps you need to take to get there, and how you’ll measure your success. This is the fundamental philosophy behind the SMART goals system, with “Specific” being the first word of the acronym.

Smart Goals design

So, instead of saying “I want to be promoted to Employee Relations Manager”, your goal will say “I’ll work to improve our employee wellness program and pitch at least 2 ideas I have for employee relations initiatives to my manager, one of which will be creating an Employee Relations Manager position to oversee these initiatives”.

Align Goals With Your Values

Before you start setting goals, you need to understand your intrinsic values. Many people often fail to achieve their goals, or don’t get any sense of achievement from them, because their goals don’t reflect what they truly want.

Going back to the above example, where your goal is to become an Employee Relations Manager. This goal will align with your core values well if your values include collaboration, teamwork, or building meaningful relationships. However, if you value independence, then you might find that this goal doesn’t give you the freedom from upper management or other people’s expectations that you need.

It’s easy to feel pressured to achieve the goals that other people want for themselves, or what society expects you to achieve, without considering your values. However, to set goals that you’ll achieve, you need to make sure that whatever you’re pursuing is something that will enrich your life.

Reorganize Your Goals

According to the Four Burners Theory, any time you begin putting more effort into a single area in your life, you will have less energy for others. Whenever you begin setting goals in your career, you’ll often find that you spend less time on your health goals, your family, or with your friends.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they set too many goals, and this throws their life out of balance to the point where they get burned out. You might also not have the energy to work towards all of those goals, so you end up not achieving any of them.

With that in mind, you need to prioritize which goals you want to achieve, and when. If being promoted to Employee Relations Manager is a big step towards your dream role, then set that as your main priority, even if new goals present themselves in the meantime. That way, you can focus on what’s truly important to you at any given time without sacrificing any of your other ‘burners’.

Set Deadlines

Every goal needs to have you to achieve it. More importantly, you need to know when you want to achieve something, as this makes it easier to break down your goal into smaller steps.

If you want to be promoted to Employee Relations Manager, you might set yourself a date of in a year’s time. Once you know this, you can then begin to plan your steps, which might look like this:

  • Overall goal: To be promoted to Employee Relations Manager
  • Month 1: Assess current employee wellness programs and their uptake
  • Month 2: Research ways of improving employee uptake, survey employees on what they’d like to see
  • Month 3: Present findings to your manager and the board of directors


Not only will this give you something to aim towards in the short term, but it also gives you more specificity over what you’ll need to do to achieve your goal.

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