Remember making those New Year’s resolutions back in January? Lose weight, look for a new job, learn a foreign language . . . ? How many of them have you achieved? How many are still sitting in your to-do list, waiting to be done? Researchers at the University of New England are conducting a study on goal setting, and they want to know which strategies work – and which don’t – for achieving your goals.
“We know that it’s good for people to set goals and good for them to achieve them,” said Dr John Malouff, an Associate Professor in UNE’s School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences. “What we know relatively little about is how to help them to do this.”
“We do know that if you are to achieve the goal, it’s important that it be measurable,” Dr Malouff said.”‘I’ll be a nicer person’ is a hard goal to measure, but ‘This week I’ll go out of my way to be nice to two people’ is a measurable goal.
“It’s also important that a goal be challenging. If the goal is too easy, it’s not very motivating and achieving it doesn’t bring very much satisfaction. If it’s too hard, we can’t achieve it at all, and that’s not very satisfying either. So goals should be challenging, but achievable.”
Dr Malouff said that the purpose of the current study was to explore what psychological strategies – beyond setting challenging, measurable goals – were effective in helping people achieve their goals.
To do this, he is looking for 150 participants, who will be asked to set a goal of their choice which they reasonably expect could be completed within two months. The participants will receive advice on ways to increase their chances of goal achievement. At the conclusion of the two-month period, the participants will be contacted and asked a number of questions, which Dr Malouff and his fellow researchers hope will help them identify effective goal achievement strategies.
Leading the way by example, Dr Malouff has set a challenging goal of his own: to lose 2 kg, bringing him below his “ideal maximum lifetime weight”.
“It’s challenging and measurable,” Dr Malouff said. “I guess I’ll know in two months whether it is achievable as well.”
Anyone interested in participating in the study should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.