Embarking on grand endeavours, whether it's striving for a promotion, building a business empire, or competing at the Olympics, can be both exhilarating and daunting. The sheer magnitude of these ambitions often leads individuals to seek a more calculated approach—one that fosters a sense of control without succumbing to the anxiety of losing it. In this pursuit, however, lies the treacherous territory of goal-setting, a realm where the unwary can easily stumble into the pitfalls of fixed outcome goals.
The Perils of Fixed Outcome Goals
Fixed outcome goals, while seemingly straightforward, carry a host of unintended consequences. Lisa Ordóñez, Dean at Rudy School of Management, University of California, has spent over two decades studying goal-setting, revealing a cascade of detrimental effects associated with fixed outcome goals. The side effects are vast and profound, from a narrow focus on neglecting non-goal areas to distorted risk preferences, unethical behaviour, inhibited learning, and a decline in intrinsic motivation.
Ordóñez's cautionary tale of a call centre setting a two-minute call time goal highlights the danger of outcome-oriented goals. Employees, focused solely on meeting the goal, resorted to hanging up immediately after the call connected. The myopic pursuit of the fixed outcome stifled performance and limited the potential for growth and improvement. The same pattern repeats in various fields, where principles are compromised for short-term gains, leading to a corrosive impact on organisational culture.
The Shift to Process-Oriented Goals: A Modern Approach
Modern research champions a shift towards process-oriented goals to escape the clutches of the perils associated with outcome goals. By shifting attention from the end result to the journey, individuals can avoid the pitfalls of fear-based thinking and gain greater clarity in the present moment. In this shift, the focus is on the day-to-day processes that contribute to the larger goal.
Introducing Short-Term Achievable Goals (STAGs): A Game-Changer
Short-Term Achievable Goals (STAGs) emerge as a powerful ally in the quest for success without succumbing to overwhelming stress and anxiety. These are not just theoretical constructs but practical tools that break colossal challenges into smaller, manageable targets. The essence lies in maintaining an optimal level of challenge, diverting focus from distracting outcomes to the process of the task, and pre-determining the experience of flow.
Real-World Success with STAGs: The Emma Story
The transformative impact of STAGs is evident in real-world scenarios. Take the case of Emma, a trainee surgeon facing the daunting task of passing consultancy exams after a decade of training. Breaking down the study curriculum into STAGs, mapping them across a timeline, and creating smaller process goals for each week allowed Emma to perceive success as an achievable reality. The STAgs not only increased her belief in overcoming the challenge but also made the journey enjoyable within her optimal challenge level.
Applying STAGs Beyond Profound Challenges: A Personal Touch
While STAGs might seem tailor-made for monumental life challenges, their relevance extends to everyday scenarios. Even delivering a keynote speech or participating in a high-pressure event can benefit from adopting the Flow Mindset through the creation of STAGs. Breaking down the task into manageable parts, focusing on specific aspects of the process, and envisioning success in smaller visions contribute to a heightened sense of control and accomplishment.
Conclusion: Embracing a Process-Oriented Journey
As we navigate the intricate landscape of ambitious pursuits, it becomes increasingly evident that success lies not just in reaching the destination but in relishing the journey. The pitfalls of fixed outcome goals can be sidestepped by embracing process-oriented goals and harnessing the power of STAGs. By doing so, individuals can dismantle colossal challenges, maintain optimal challenge levels, and find joy in the daily pursuit of success.
What are your experiences with goal-setting and overcoming monumental challenges? Share your insights, and let's continue the conversation about fostering a mindset that thrives on process-oriented triumphs.