10 October 2007 - 4:45A journey of a 1000 miles begins with…
Yes, a single step. But what happens before that first step? Does that matter? You bet. Scientists have found that the simple act of declaring your intention to travel 1000 miles—the act of setting a goal—can have a critical impact on whether you complete the journey.
To understand the how goals affect performance, let’s consider two fictional people. We’ll call the first Sally Weight-loss. The second is named Sally Weight-gain (amazingly, they are both named Sally). Sally Weight-loss and Sally Weight-gain meet at the gym one day and strike up a conversation. Turns out, this is the first trip either of them has taken to the gym in a long time, and both want to work out more in order to lose weight. Sally Weight-gain says that she came to the gym because she her doctor recommend she exercise more often. Sally Weight-loss, who is a bit of a self-promoter, says that she has developed a plan to lose 5 pounds over the next 6 weeks, and she is going to work out 18 times. One has a goal; one does not. So what is the difference?
According to scientists, setting a goal serves four essential purposes:
- Goals focus attention on a task
- Goals inspire energy to complete a task
- Goals affect the persistence applied to the task
- Goals awaken relevant knowledge related to the task
So as a result of setting a goal, Sally Weight-loss is more likely to apply effort toward working out. She stands a greater chance of having the energy to work out. As long as the goal remains attainable, she is more likely to show persistence. And to top it off, she is likely to think of ideas that will help her workout out more often and more effectively.
One thing to consider, and pay close attention to this point, is that in study after study, scientists have found that the fruits of goal setting are highly dependent on the level of commitment to the goal. All the great rewards Sally Weight-loss is likely to reap as a result of setting a goal will never materialize without commitment to the goal. So on your next journey, the first step is the most important, but remembers to set your goal, a goal you are committed to, before taking that step.
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