How to Set Performance Enhancing Goals

Work toward your goals while simultaneously improving performance.

By Dawn Demers

Are you interested in increasing your performance and productivity at work or in life in general? One way to do this is to set effective goals. The process of goal setting helps us to define a direction for our future. Goals can help us to grow, develop and transform as we stretch to achieve our dreams. For this to happen however, our goals must meet certain criteria to be effective.

When our goals are set following specific criteria, the goals increase motivation, focus, , commitment and the quality of our performance. When set correctly, goals support us in properly analyzing the exact resources and skills needed to accomplish the task. Efficient goal setting supports the brain in devising a plan to accomplish the goal as expediently as possible. By setting clear, concise, efficient goals we can draw a blueprint for success and create a roadmap to the future we want to create for ourselves.

There are goals that we set for how we want to be perceived, our state of being. These goals are often vague and general and do not have a specific action related to the goal. The type of goals that are performance enhancing are action goals. These goals require action, some activity that is within our individual control to be achieved and accomplished. Action based goals are the goals that when set properly can not only increase productivity but also launch us into a high performance flow state allowing us to achieve levels of performance we were not sure we were capable of. Working toward goals that thrust us into the flow state are exciting, exhilarating and accelerate our success.

Research has proven that setting a goal is an effective way to enhance performance and productivity by up to 25%! However to realize this performance boost our goals must meet certain criteria. When a goal does not meet these criteria, research shows us that the goal can actually decrease performance and productivity! The opposite of what we intend! The following are 6 important criteria to setting performance enhancing goals.

Make it Compelling

One common reason that our goals are not effective is that they are not compelling or inspiring. We are far more likely to direct energy, attention and focus into something that we are interested in than to something we are not. Are your goals part of something you are passionate about? Are they aligned with your purpose? Are they helping you to take steps towards achieving something you want?

Believe in what you are doing and believe in your goals. When our goals are in alignment with our personal values and beliefs we are much more likely to achieve our desired outcome. When we believe in what we are doing, we will commit to our goals. Commitment results in increased focus, productivity and resiliency. Make sure your goals excite you and inspire you.

Make it Challenging

If a goal is so much of a stretch from where we currently are that we cannot achieve it, the goal will only serve to frustrate and dishearten us. At some point we will naturally lose focus and disengage from pursuing the goal. On the other hand if our goal is too easy, the same will occur. If our goal is so simple it is boring to us, then we will lose interest and disengage. Goals must be realistic, achievable within a set period of time and challenging. Performance enhancing goals must be a bit of a stretch beyond our current skill set.

When goals are challenging our attention and persistence in working toward the goals naturally increases. As focus on the goal increases so does our performance. When we are focused, engaged and committed on achieving a goal we are more relentless in our pursuit. This makes us more effective in working toward the goal and more willing to keep trying despite any setbacks we may encounter. Challenge keeps our attention.

Be Clear

Set clear, specific and measurable goals. When goals are clear and specific our brains instinctively increase focus and attention on the goal. Vague goals are more difficult to focus on therefore the brain’s attention wanders to other patterns of thought. When there is clarity our brain focuses and starts working toward the achievement of the goal. When the outcome we desire is clear, specific and measurable there is no room for interpretation. When our goals are clear the brain knows what to do and where to focus attention. When goals are clear, we easily can stay in the moment and focus our attention on the task at hand, not on the reason for doing the task which actually decreases performance. Clarity provides certainty. When there is clarity, there is no question, no distraction.

Stay in the “Now”

Long term goals are more like mission statements. Long term goals are those goals that require years to achieve and distract us from the present moment. Goals that are too far in the future allow the brain the opportunity to start focusing on hopes, fears, and what ifs, pulling our focus away from the present and what we need to do now. Long term goals are important in helping us set our direction for the future. They provide a roadmap by which we can set our clear, specific short term goals. Long term goals are a part of the process to set our short term goals, they are not performance enhancing. Short term goals direct our immediate attention and enhance performance and productivity.

Timeframe of 12 Months or Less

Clear short term goals, the steps along the way to achieving your mission, are goals with achievement timeframes of 12 months or less. Goals with this time span allow the brain to focus with less distraction, increasing performance. These goals are actionable and much easier to clearly define because they must be achieved within a fairly limited timeframe. When goals are clear and specific there is no room for interpretation, the brain can focus on performance versus problem solving. This heightens clarity and focus and increases concentration and motivation, which in turn increases performance and achievement. Having a clear idea of your timeline creates a sense of urgency. Urgency increases engagement. Performance enhancing goals must have a target achievement date of 12 months or less from the date that they are set.

Bite-Size Chunks

Break larger long term goals into bite-size chunks and set short term goals accordingly. As we break larger goals into short term goals make sure that the bite-size chunks are challenging, yet manageable. Short term goals should provide just enough stimulation to direct our attention into the now, yet not cause so much stress as to create worry and concern. Do not try to include too much into one goal. The broader the goal is, the more difficult to clarify and the more difficult for the brain to know what to focus on. Goals that are too broad will decrease performance. Performance enhancing goals are short term goals that are clear and are set up one step at a time.

Once you have developed your list of 1-4 for performance enhancing goals, put your goals where you will see them daily. On the bathroom mirror is a common and convenient spot for many people. Each day take at least one action towards achieving each goal and write it down in a journal so that you can hold yourself accountable. Lastly, before drifting off to sleep each night visualize yourself living the goal as if it is already achieved. This will prompt your subconscious to go to work achieving your goal as you sleep. Apply these steps to goal setting and your goals will become more effective, your performance and productivity will increase and you will achieve your goals faster.Dawn Demers is a Strategic Coach, Change Master and speaker. Dawn’s training includes Pranic Healing, Reiki and other healing modalities in addition to traditional bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business and psychology, Learn more about Dawn at ACORDA Strategic Coaching.

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