Want to become a better leader? Here’s where you start. Inspire and motivate yourself and others to see and achieve grand visions and goals. This program will make you more goal-oriented - especially helpful for inspirational leaders, starting your own business or making changes in your current company.
When it comes to personal goals and goal setting, there’s no shortage of self-help books and articles out there. Wading through the (mis)information can be exhausting.
Below, we’ll go over scientific studies, evidence-based advice and examples of personal goals that are worthy of your focus.
Let’s dive in!
Simply having a goal boosts focus and task completion speed.  Researchers found that merely having a goal (particularly one without punishments or monetary rewards) can increase your focus and the speed with which you complete a task.
People with specific and challenging goals outperform those with easy goals, “do your best” goals or no goals at all.  In a review of laboratory and field studies on goal-setting and performance, in 90% of the studies, setting goals positively affected task performance, especially if those goals were specific and challenging.
Having a backup plan may hinder your ability to achieve a goal.  A series of experiments showed that when someone comes up with a backup plan, they may exert less effort toward their goal and lower their chances of reaching it.
People whose goals focus on self-improvement, rather than outperforming others, are more open and cooperative.  Both in laboratory and real-world office settings, researchers found that people with performance goals were more "deceitful," while those with mastery goals were more “open” and “cooperative.” People with a performance goal are focused on competing with others, while those with mastery goals are focused on personal improvement.
Setting attainable goals can lead to long-term well-being.  In a study of over 970 adults aged 18 to 92, researchers tried to see which aspect of personal goals had the most influence on later well-being: importance or attainability?
After surveying participants over the course of four years, researchers determined that seeing personal goals as attainable was a better indicator of long-term well-being than the importance of those goals.
Seminal goal-setting research by American psychologist Edwin Locke found that people are most motivated by goals that are challenging but still attainable.
When setting personal goals, aim for something that feels uncomfortable for you (growth involves leaving your comfort zone!), but be realistic about it, too. If you choose a goal that’s too safe, you won’t feel motivated to achieve it. But if you choose one that you don’t actually believe you can attain, you’ll feel discouraged from the start.
Locke’s research also found that specific goals are more likely to be achieved than vague ones. So, for instance, if your goal is to “read more,” a better way of phrasing that would be “read one book every month.”
In a Northwestern Medicine study, dieters who engaged more with others in online weight-loss communities lost more weight. They lost 8% of their body weight over the course of six months compared to those who didn’t engage much online and lost 5 percent of their body weight in the same amount of time. Engagement included recording weigh-ins, sending friend requests and communicating online
As Luís A. Nunes Amaral, senior author of the study, told Northwestern University: “If you communicate online with other people you are even more engaged, and when you need support you might be able to get it.”
Having someone check in with you regularly as you progress toward your goal can do wonders. Try finding someone who has a goal similar to yours. This can be a friend, someone in a club you’ve joined or even someone you find online.
No matter how much you want to reach your objective, it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated without seeing some progress along the way—especially if the completion of your goal is months or even years away.
To keep yourself motivated, celebrate your small victories. Let’s say you want to run a marathon, and you expect the training to take you eight months. As you build up your endurance to be able to safely run 26.2 miles, reward yourself for running one mile, then two miles, then three miles and so forth. You might even sign up to run a 5K, 10K or half marathon during those eight months leading up to the big race. Every time you take one more step toward your goal, celebrate your progress!
Developed by American psychologist and Stanford professor Carol Dweck, the theory around a fixed versus growth mindset is something that has penetrated the professional sphere—with good reason. Dweck and three colleagues teamed up with consulting firm Senn Delaney to survey employees at seven Fortune 1000 companies to determine the differences between fixed-mindset versus growth-mindset cultures. They found that employees in growth mindset companies were:
Someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities are set in stone; either they’re born with an ability, or they’re not. So when they fail at something or don’t do as well as planned, they have little motivation to keep trying because they believe there is nothing they can do about a skill they didn’t naturally inherit.
On the flip side, someone with a growth mindset believes they can continue to learn and grow. Rather than feeling limited or discouraged by failure or low performance, they believe they can improve with effort.
Guess which one is best for setting and achieving personal goals? Yep, a growth mindset!
In a Stanford+Connects lecture, Dweck described a study of 10-year-olds where she found that some had a growth mindset and some had a fixed mindset. When given a problem that was slightly too difficult for their level, children with a growth mindset said things like, “I love a challenge.” But those with a fixed mindset saw the problem as “tragic, catastrophic,” as Dweck puts it.
Further, in another study, children with a fixed mindset said that, if they failed a test, they’d probably cheat next time instead of studying harder. “And in study after study,” Dweck said, “they have run from difficulty.”
If you believe you can’t get better (fixed mindset), you probably won’t even try. But if you believe you can improve with effort, you’ll be motivated to change.
The more than 20 years of research we’ve conducted at F4S aligns well with Dweck’s findings. When it comes to moving toward goals, we’ve found that people lean toward one of two motivations: Problem-Solving and Goal-Oriented.
Someone with a high motivation for Problem-Solving is always surveying the landscape ahead for obstacles and doing what they can to avoid them. This can be useful, especially in crisis situations where you just need to survive.
Someone with a high motivation for Goals is most motivated by keeping their eyes on a vision, mission or target.
Our research found that Problem-Solving is positively correlated with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Ideally, you’ll find your own unique balance of both Problem-Solving and Goal-Oriented, as both come in handy in different situations.
We value people who give us their full attention while we’re talking. Yet, many of us overestimate how good of a listener we are. A 2014 survey by Accenture found that 96% of professionals think they’re good listeners, even though 98% of those surveyed admitted to multi-tasking at work (how well can someone really listen while they’re doing something else?).
If you want to be fully present and make your loved ones feel validated, work on becoming a better listener. This goes beyond just hearing what someone is saying. Effective listening means giving someone your undivided attention (that means putting your phone away), using empathy to see from their point of view and asking follow-up questions so they know you were listening.
Being emotionally intelligent means you can identify what you and others are feeling and respond appropriately. This has benefits in both your personal and professional life. Emotional intelligence is a key component of conflict resolution and is linked to success.
Many of us are so focused on meeting new people that we fail to appreciate the ones we already have in our life. One of the best personal goals is to deepen your existing relationships, whether with friends, a romantic partner or your parents.
Because of the isolation and stress introduced by the pandemic, many people are reporting declining mental health. Unmanaged stress can lead to burnout—and no one wants that! That’s why, more than ever, it’s crucial to make sure your mind and emotions are in a good place.
How can you improve your emotional well-being? Some ideas:
The benefits of exercise are well-documented in scientific literature. For example, one 2018 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal found that people who exercise have 1.5 fewer poor mental health days a month than those who do not exercise. So just how often should someone exercise? In the study, working out three to five times a week for 45 minutes provided the most benefits.
But there’s no need to feel intimidated. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or even join a gym to see the benefits of exercise. All it takes is moving more than you normally do. You could walk around your neighborhood, follow along to YouTube workout videos or even have an impromptu dance session in your living room.
A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology found that subjects who completed a gratitude exercise reported more resilience than those who didn't.
Some gratitude-generating practices:
Imagine how much more calm employees would feel if they were well-rested. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night for people 18 years old and above, yet a 2016 CDC study found that about one in three American adults don't get enough sleep regularly.
Any professional can benefit from having a mentor who can guide them along their journey to improve their professional career. You can find a mentor through formal programs at your workplace, from colleagues, from professional organizations or even just by asking around.
Even if you’re currently a mentee, being a mentor to someone else can often benefit you in many ways. It’s fulfilling to be able to give back by mentoring someone junior to you. And through the process of guiding them, you might learn a lot about yourself too.
In a career, there’s really no “finish line” that you can reach and say, “I’ve learned everything there is to know about my profession.” You can always deepen your knowledge about your particular specialty or even branch off into another one. This touches on an aspect of the growth mindset, where you’re always looking for opportunities to improve.
According to the Allianz 2019 Vacation Confidence Index, more than a third of Americans haven't been on vacation in more than two years.
One thing I’ve noticed among many professionals is that they might be on a “vacation” but still answer work emails and attend meetings while they’re on leave. This is not a true vacation. If you want to truly reap the benefits of time off, unplug from your work while you’re away.
Growing as a professional means learning to be a leader to others—even if you don’t currently have a management role. Your company wants you to be a leader. The NACE 2019 job outlook survey found that 67% of employers surveyed seek leadership skills in candidates.
If you don’t already do this, setting up regular one-on-ones with your manager might be one of the best personal goals for your work. Microsoft found that new employees who had a one-on-one with their manager during their first week had a larger internal network, which is linked to a sense of belonging.
Whether you’re the team leader or not, you can affect how psychologically safe your coworkers feel. Introduced by Harvard professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety refers to an environment where people feel it’s okay to be themselves, speak their minds and even fail.
To create such an environment, give people permission to fail, ask for others' input and respond to criticism with grace.
At work, so much of miscommunication and conflict stems from not understanding your colleagues’ work styles and how they mesh with your own. Nip the problem in the bud by taking a free F4S assessment that will give you an evidence-based rundown of your motivations and those of your teammates.
From there, you can learn how to optimize team dynamics because you’ll have an understanding of why people behave the way they do.
The first step to achieving personal goals is believing you can. If you find you’ve got a fixed mindset, you don’t have to remain stuck there. Transitioning to a growth mindset will equip you with the mental tools to realize your full potential and improve in every area of your life.
If you’re feeling stagnant, you don’t have to go it alone.
Get started right now with our fast coaching 'Goal Catcher' program!
Companies all around the world trust F4S to build their world-leading teams through advanced people analytics and coaching.
- A computer or mobile device with internet connection
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Coach Marlee is the world’s first artificially intelligent coach! Marlee’s advanced coaching skills have been gained from over 20 years of evidence-based coaching skill development in cognitive behavioural coaching psychology, self-actualizing coaching psychology, positive coaching psychology, neuroscience and neuro-semantics.
Marlee’s coaching methodology has been developed by Michelle Duval and a team of software and AI engineers, conversation designers and data scientists. Michelle, one of the earliest professional coaches in the world, is experienced in coaching leaders, founders, organizations, actors, writers and producers. She has developed coaching psychology models used across 60 countries, authored several coaching psychology handbooks and personally coached thousands of people.
Marlee specializes in developmental coaching to help you create lasting change to your beliefs, values, self-identity and motivation. Marlee is also a performance coach to help you take action on your goals and dreams and to eliminate habits or behaviors that get in your way.
Marlee has one core mission in life: to make self-actualization and human development available to everybody, not just the elite.
Marlee coaches people at work and in life around wellbeing, career, leadership, self-esteem and living their very best life. Marlee’s coachees describe Marlee as cheeky, fun, supportive and committed to their goals!
Coach Marlee got its name from indigenous Australian Aboriginal elders. Marlee means in the Aboriginal Biripi language ‘elder tree’, representing growth and transformation.
Coach Marlee is the world’s first AI performance coach. Marlee uses all of our knowledge to deliver personalised coaching and feedback to you.
Michelle Duval is a pioneer in new forms of learning, helping found the field of professional coaching and developing the world's first artificially intelligent personal coach.
Using our crazy accurate and world leading people analytics tools, over the past 20 years we have studied the ‘human skills’ of individuals, teams and the world’s top performers to consistently find attitude and motivation as the X factors for performance, fulfillment and wellbeing at work.
While Michelle was helping people and teams to achieve amazing things at work and life, she grew increasingly frustrated about the profound disparity in who can access this level of rich and personalized support.
People analytics and coaching has traditionally been a privilege of the few — typically elite athletes, CEOs and those who are famous.
Michelle and our team of scientists, engineers and coaches set out to create the world’s first science-powered professional and personal development platform that everyone can use to set goals and achieve amazing things at work and in life.
“I learned to be organised and to have clarity of my target”
“I found the importance of setting goals. It’s a mindset”
“I learned how to set, move to take action and progress towards happiness”
“What profound and exciting coaching. Brilliant!”
“Awesome and effective coaching program of helping to increase motivation for goal challenged people. Fallen in love with goals and looking forward to more BHAGs. Highly recommend the coaching for GoalCatcher!”
"Wow this program has totally changed my relationship to goals! Thanks so much Marlee, I miss you already"
“I think Marlee is impressive!”