Setting and Accomplishing Goals

Megan Pociask 
Staff Writer

PC: Megan Pociask

There’s a surprising amount of evidence that supports practical ways to implement productive steps towards achieving what might often seem like far-fetched goals.

For instance, while perhaps not far-fetched, but certainly challenging, graduation is a clear goal that college students set out with the expectation to achieve. Then, typically, that expectation transforms into finding a job that has something to do with what students have spent the past few, long years studying.

All those anxiety-ridden sleepless nights must be worth something. 

Regardless of whatever goals people find themselves wishing to accomplish, many are more easily envisioned than done. 

According to Merriam Webster, goals are defined as “the end towards; which effort is directed.” People often find themselves looking towards this end every trip around the sun, yet find that the end tends to be rather unchanging each time.

However, there’s something to be said for setting out to accomplish a goal, no matter how big or small. And there is quite a bit of evidence to prove just how possible these goals are to achieve.

A practical way to begin accomplishing goals is to actually write them down. A Harvard Business study concluded that those who write down their goals are more likely to be successful than those who simply have a goal in mind. 

Another helpful tip – implement SMART goals. 

Believe it or not, the overused acronym is fairly useful. Ensuring that set goals are specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound enacts a formula for success. 

Though setting goals within these parameters is a start, only setting them up is not enough. The real challenge emerges when it comes to their execution. 

Communicating, implementing and tracking goals are realistic, actionable ways to execute such a task according to Emergenetics International.

Similarly, The Dominican University of California conducted a study focusing not just on setting goals but on strategies used to achieve them and found that committing to action, being held accountable by peers and providing them with regular updates, all increase the likelihood of achieving set goals.

As well as it being up to the individual to actively work towards accomplishing their goals, the brain itself does offer some motivation. Psychologists and neurologists alike have found that setting a goal commits the individual to the objective target as if it’s already been achieved.  

Therefore, the brain interprets the failure of a goal the same way it understands the loss of a personal possession. 

It should be understood, however, that when individuals achieve their own goals, typically, a dopamine receptors release occurs within the brain. Alternatively, when a goal is met with failure, the body’s response can sometimes result in the occurrence of fear and anxiety. This is why many people tend to find themselves stuck in a viscous cycle of setting out to, but never quite accomplishing their goals. That fear and anxiety now associates itself with the goal of the individual. 

Though this can seem discouraging, the key is to understand a concept known as the “endowment effect.”

Cornell University conducted a study founded on the “endowment effect” which “occurs when we take ownership of an idea; in becoming ‘ours’, it becomes integrated with our sense of identity.”  

Essentially, this Cornell University study concluded that most people are reluctant to give up ownership of their personal possessions. 

This reveals that if individuals see their goals as personal possessions, with a bit of consistent effort, such goals are more than achievable.

Categories: Features

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