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The Science Behind Goal Setting

Up to 67% of organizations fail to achieve their strategic plans and goals. A majority of employees do not have their regular goals and tasks aligned with the organization’s values or goals. A large part of the problem is that only 5% of employees typically are aware of and/or understand their organization’s strategy, values or vision.

So while a person may be working hard, they may not necessarily be working towards the goal of their unit, department or company.

Goals are things we want to achieve, but have difficulty achieving, which is why in the end we need a plan. The most desired goals are those that are just hard enough to reach that it requires some effort, but not so much that you can’t reach it. There is some pretty long standing data that finds a correlation between level of performance and the degree of difficulty of a goal – the harder the goal, the higher a person will perform.

But how do you achieve those goals if they are so hard in the first place?

At least one answer lies in aligning your goals with your identity; this even works with corporate goals.

Researchers have found that when goal-setting is focused on one’s core values, it increased the likelihood of achieving success. Recent neuroscience research has found that there is a high degree of connectivity and maybe even overlap in the parts of your brain that deal with identity and your values. If you feel your goal is in line with what you value as a person, then you are more likely to want to achieve it, and to push yourself to achieve it. This is why so many New Year’s resolutions don’t work – they are tied to what is in the end a relatively meaningless date – the further you reach away from that lovely night you made the rash commitment to stop eating donuts, the harder it really is for you maintain that goal.

So if you link your desired goal with your identity, who you define yourself as, you are even more likely to achieve it. So, if your goal is to learn how to do strategic planning, and you begin to identify yourself as a strategic planner (and really internalize that role for you in your life), then you are significantly more likely to become a better strategic planner.

Bringing this back to an organizational perspective, your organization is more likely to achieve optimal performance if your colleagues and staff can identify with, and align toward, your organizational goals. If your staff’s values align with your corporate values, if your staff identify with the role your organization plays in your community, and with how you achieve it, then there is a greater chance they will perform at a higher level.

And as we learned right at the beginning of this article, apparently it also helps if your organizational goals are actually communicated to the staff to begin with.

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