Setting goals is easy. . . the latest research indicates that achieving them is not!
Over 22 years, Stephanie Burns, Australia’s leading adult educator has taught literally thousands of individuals a variety of intellectual and physical skills. Consequently, she became aware that these competent learners had significant difficulty in the achievement of their personally relevant goals. Stephanie undertook a Ph.D. on the subject to find out why.
Her research findings illustrate that individuals (and those supporting others in goal achievement – e.g. teachers, coaches, managers) need to understand that non achievements of goals is a problem of motivation – the factors that affectability, or willingness, to initiate and sustain action toward a chosen goal.
One of the most interesting findings in my recent study is the difference between those who achieve goals and those who regularly abandon them. What was surprising was that those who succeed in achieving their goals have similar experiences to those who do not succeed. While attempting to achieve their goals – they both experience frustration, boredom, difficulty, discomfort and so on. What is different is their response to these feelings. The successful goal achievers perceive negative experiences as part of the process – they do not carry expectations of this process being easy or necessarily fun. When the going gets tough, successful achievers keep taking action. Those who abandon goals make decisions to alleviate or avoid the negative feelings. This results in diminishing action which leads ultimately to the abandonment of the goal. Interestingly, alleviating negative emotions and unpleasant feelings is normal – as humans we are biologically predisposed to doing this. However, this action is problematic for goal achievement.
Emotions and feelings have a direct effect on decision making – especially decisions related to action. Simply put, what you will do, or not do depends heavily on how you imagine you will feel while engaged in the activity. My research has shown that goal oriented activities; sitting down to study, improving physical performance, or writing a business plan are not emotionally neutral events. Instead, they stimulate a whole range of emotional responses. When it comes to determining the causes for success and/or failure in adults, emotions and feelings must be considered salient factors.
Those who are able to manage their emotions while pursuant of their goal succeed.