Where do you see yourself in five years? In one year? How about in a few weeks? We may not realize it, but people are constantly setting both long-term and short-term goals for themselves in their day to day lives. However, how many of those goals do we actually realize? New research on the difference between setting goals and actually achieving them gives us some insight on how we can approach goal setting in order to create tangible changes in our lives.
Goal setting is a motivational strategy that has gained increasing and widespread attention in recent years, with motivational gurus and self-help books claiming that individuals can accomplish any goal they set their mind to. Even though goal setting is valuable, a 2015 study by Reeve revealed that goal-setting alone will not automatically guarantee completion of the goal; this is because there is a gap between goal-directed thinking and goal directed action. According to Gollowitzer and Bayer, when a person is involved in pursuing a goal, two different types of mindsets often emerge: the deliberative and the implemental mindset. A deliberative mindset is related to prioritizing, selecting, and setting the specific content for a goal, while an implemental mindset is related to the action that one must take to make it happen. While the two are closely related to one another, each type of mindset works independently and a person cannot become intensely involved in both mindsets at once.
If you or someone you know is struggling to take action despite being eager goals, it is possible that they are getting stuck in the deliberative mindset. Of course, having a deliberative mindset is not necessarily a bad thing – after all, having this type of attitude is what allows us to create realistic expectations when setting goals and to have a more open mind while gathering new information. However, if you find that you often struggle to meet the goals that you set yourself, it may be beneficial to consider the following in order to begin the process of implementing your goals:
- Identify the things that may attempt to deter you from reaching your goals. How will you persist when distractions and interruptions appear?
- Realize that in almost any scenario, setbacks will occur. Consider potential ways in which your goals and plans may change and be willing to remain flexible. Create a plan for how long to deliberate on alternate actions before returning to implementing them.
- Set realistic, concrete deadlines for when you will begin and complete projects
Creating goals that force you to take action can help you switch from the deliberative mindset to the implemental mindset, allowing you to begin the process of pursuing and achieving the goals that you set for yourself.
Gollowitzer, P. M., & Bayer, U. (1999). Deliberative versus Implemental mindsets in the control of action. (pp. 403-422). In S. Chaiken, & Y. Trope, Dual-process theories in social psychology. New York: Guilford.
Reeve, J. (2015). Understanding motivation and emotion. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.