Well, one is and one isn’t. According to research, that is. So which one is worth it? Do New Year’s resolutions come with years of research on effectiveness? Not so much. Does goal setting? Yes- but only when you do it correctly.
So how do you use goal setting effectively instead of joining a gym in January only to realize in May that you only went 4 times and have been paying every month for a service you don’t even use?!
When setting goals, think SMART. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. It isn’t a pie in the sky idea.
I will lose 10 pounds.
It’s specific (number of pounds); it’s measurable (a scale will work); it’s attainable (I didn’t say 50 pounds); it’s relevant (it’s a good goal for my health); What about TIMELY? When will I lose 10 lbs? Do I have all year to lose 10 lbs? A month? NOT a SMART goal.
I will work out every day for at least 30 minutes.
It’s specific (every day, 30 minutes); it’s measurable (calendar and clock will work); it’s NOT attainable. Not for me in this life right now. Every single day. No days off! NOT a SMART goal. I cannot attain this one at this point in my mommy-hood.
I will put $100 in the savings account each pay period for 6 months.
It’s specific (how much $); it’s measurable (I can count the $ and follow a calendar); it’s attainable (you can adjust the $ amount up or down to make it attainable for you today); it’s relevant (necessary for planning for the future); and it’s timely (there is an end of the time period). YES! We have a winner! SMART goals for everyone!
Most importantly- what’s the reinforcer for meeting your goal? Make a lovely prize at the end of this race for yourself!
Read more about goal setting and find some templates here and here.
There’s a TON of behavior analytic research on using goal-setting to increase desired behaviors from classroom behaviors to sports performance. Here is tiny sampling.
Arnold, M. L., & Houten, R. (2011). Increasing following headway with prompts, goal setting, and feedback in a driving simulator. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 44(2), 245-254.
Cunningham, T. R., & Austin, J. (2007). USING GOAL SETTING, TASK CLARIFICATION, AND FEEDBACK TO INCREASE THE USE OF THE HANDS‐FREE TECHNIQUE BY HOSPITAL OPERATING ROOM STAFF.Journal of applied Behavior analysis, 40(4), 673-677.
Mellalieu, S. D., Hanton, S., & O’brien, M. (2006). The effects of goal setting on rugby performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 39(2), 257-261.
Miller, D. L., & Kelley, M. L. (1994). The use of goal setting and contingency contracting for improving children’s homework performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(1), 73-84.
Winett, R. A., Kramer, K. D., Walker, W. B., Malone, S. W., & Lane, M. K. (1988). Modifying food purchases in supermarkets with modeling, feedback, and goal-setting procedures. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 21(1), 73.