Effective Goal Setting - Photo by Polina Zimmerman

Effective Goal Setting

Effective goal setting is a vital tool in solution-focused brief therapy along with many other forms of mental health therapeutic approaches, helping us to focus on a future better; on a time beyond now where some level of recovery or resolution will have taken place.

Goal setting helps us to understand in what direction we are headed so that we can take steps in the right direction to work towards or achieve our goal.

According to Owain Service and Dr Rory Gallagher in their book ‘Think Small‘, there are three golden rules to effective goal setting:

  • Score goals against increased wellbeing and passion/interest
  • Be clear about success
  • Break down the goal

Score your Goals

You may have a massive endless list of goals or you may only have a few key goals, but either way, it’s important to be able to distinguish which of your goals you are most likely to achieve.

The evidence studied by Service and Gallagher goes to show that goals that rank highly towards improving our wellbeing and score highly with us for passion and interest are the goals that we are most likely to achieve.

Be Clear about Success

How will you know if you have been successful at achieving your goals if you don’t know what success will look like?

We often talk about setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) and although it sounds clichéd, it’s a proven technique that can help us to ensure that our goals aren’t vague aspirations and hopes but meaningful and achievable goals.

So for effective goal setting, we must make sure that our goal is clearly stated and contains a form of measurement that means we will know when we have achieved it.

Breakdown the Goal

Our top-level goals may seem lofty and challenging and sometimes they can intimidate us as well, so it’s important to break down the goal into smaller chunks.

These small chunk goals enable you to see the connection between your bigger longer-term objective and also the things you’ll need to do on a day-to-day basis to get there.

Think of them as milestones, chapters, or steps along the way – when you break down the goal then you have shorter-term goals to achieve and this ‘ticking off as you go’ can help build a momentum of motivation and makes it more likely that you will achieve the overall stated goal.

Effective Goal Setting: Summary

When setting goals, you want them to be effective or you are unlikely to achieve them.

  • Choose goals that increase your wellbeing and that you are passionate about and interested in.
  • Be clear about what success will look like when the goal is achieved.
  • Break down the goal into smaller chunks so you can focus on the next step, build momentum, and not be overwhelmed.