People Who Achieve Their Goals & People Who Don’t

October 16, 2017
By Zack Poelwijk

According to recent research by the University of Scranton, 92% of people who set New Year’s Eve goals never achieve them. What’s the difference between the 92% of people who don’t meet their goals and the 8% who do?

Research by Edwin Locke and his academic partners answered that question back in the 1970s. Their research showed that the most achievable goals were ones that were specific and challenging. But they shouldn’t be so challenging that they can’t realistically be achieved.

Locke’s research showed that specific and challenging goals led to higher rate of achievement than easy goals. “Do your best” goals or no goals also met with failure. Based on their field work, the people who achieved their goals most often received feedback to keep them on track. They were given a reward such as money when they attained their goal, and they accepted their goals.

In other words, in a work setting, they were assigned a goal and they accepted the goal. And then had some input and ownership into how it was going (they got feedback and they wanted the reward).

So how can you put this information into practice? If you want to learn Italian so that you can attend an international conference in Rome next year, don’t just tell yourself that you want to “learn Italian.” Instead, set a specific and achievable goal. Set a goal to purchase a language learning program. Set a goal for yourself to complete a chapter every three days. Then set a goal to join a conversational group six months from now.

Those goals are specific and achievable. And there’s a pretty good reward attached to completing it. When you learn to create manageable goals, and give manageable goals to your employees, you’ve moved yourself from the realm of the 92% who consistently fail to meet their goals to the rare and few who actually do. That’s something to be proud of.