Don’t bother with outcomes

If you’re struggling to stick at that exercise regime, then maybe, just maybe, you are setting the wrong type of goal.

An academic research study (Wilson & Brookfield, 2009) utilised a goal setting intervention to examine the impact on motivation and adherance to a 6 week exercise programme.

Process goals versus outcome goals

Sixty recreational exercisers were randomly assigned to a process goal group, an outcome goal group and a no-goal control group. Outcome goals focus on the end point of an event; for example, an exerciser may want to lose eight kilograms in weight. Process goals specify the processes in which the individual wants to engage to perform satisfactorily (however that is defined); for example, the same exerciser may want to keep his heart rate above 140 beats per minutes for 20 minutes of each exercise session

Process goals are more motivational and people stick at them

Participants completed motivational questionnaires throughout the study. Results indicated that the participants in the process goal group scored significantly higher interest/enjoyment and perceived choice, significantly lower pressure/tension and had significantly greater adherance compared to the outcome goal and control groups.

Feedback on progress critical

Only one study of course but the gurus of goal setting, Locke and Latham (1990), also emphasise the importance of providing feedback on performance to ensure ongoing commitment and motivation to the goal.

The implications for organisational goal setting are significant. How often do we set outcome goals and fail to focus on process? How often do managers sit down and agree a goal with a direct report and then ‘let them get on with it’ with little or no direct performance feedback on progress towards the goal?

In a previous blog I mentioned the importance of managers commenting on a direct report’s daily progress as critical to that report’s well being and sense of achievement.

In your goal setting, what type of goal are you focused on and what feedback processes have you put in place to keep you motivated?