Article by Amy Ross

Recognising Goal Importance

The concept of New Year’s resolutions are sometimes accepted as trivial, and more often than not, those goals spontaneously set on the 1st of January are forgotten by the end of the month (if not by the 2nd of January!). The problem is, goals are incredibly important, so they need more than a fleeting thought; they need time and consideration and, if you knew the influence goals had on your cognition and behaviour, you would no doubt invest more time into goal setting, and you would consistently make them SMART.


Cognitive and Behavioural Effect of Goals

The foundation for setting an achievable goal, is to first acknowledge the problem. Setting a goal then clearly defines the difference between where are now and where you want to be. In turn, you become driven to reach that goal. Goal setting encourages a process of self-regulation. By setting meaningful goals, you are more likely to directly adjust your behaviour in order to reduce the difference between desired and actual state.

Progression towards a highly desired goal, results in a sense of relief from reducing the discrepancy. Additionally, perception of progress causes a positive change in emotional wellbeing through a feeling of accomplishment and increased self-efficacy.









  1. Make sure your goals are within your control. Avoid outcome goals. These are goals that involve a certain placing. The problem with these goals is that you can’t control certain variables, such as the behaviour of other people that day.

Alternatively, set performance goals. These focus on your own individual performance, such as a time, distance, percentage that you want to achieve. Hopefully a personal best!

  1. Have both short and long term goals

Short term goals can act as steppingstones to your ‘final/big goal’. In this way you also achieve goals on a regular basis, which is important for maintaining motivation and self-efficacy. Long term goals keep you directed and purposeful.

  1. Know the ‘WHY’ behind your goal

This is crucial! When you set a goal, know why you want to achieve it. Know why it’s important to you. This will become particularly important when you start hitting those inevitable challenges.

When things don’t go to plan or get hard, remember why you want to achieve that goal.

  1. Write down your goals and action plan

Writing your goal down almost makes the goal ‘official’ and allows you to hold yourself accountable. When written and displayed, the words can serve as a daily reminder to yourself.

A Harvard business study estimated that of the 14% of the population that actually had a goal and action plan, only 3% had it written down. That 3% were three times more successful than those whose goals were not written down.

  1. Finally, DREAM BIG

As long as you have a clear set action plan to how you’re going to achieve your goal and the determination, you have what it takes. Don’t be afraid of failure, just fight hard for success.


Specific: When setting your goals, be specific. State exactly what you want to achieve.

Measurable: You need to be able to measure progress. State your goal in a way that allows you to measure progress and determine that you achieved it.

Action plan: Reaching your goal won’t just happen. Have an action plan which outlines the actions and steps you need to achieve your goal. Acknowledge potential barriers and challenges and how you’ll tackle them.

Realistic: While you want your goals to be challenging, you don’t want to set unreasonable expectations of yourself. Make sure your goals are challenging, but within reach with some hard work.

Time limit: Arguably one of the most important aspects of goals is setting a time limit on the goal. A specific time limit keeps you focused and motivated to keep to the action plan, even on those days when you’re just not feeling it.