2.2 Goal Setting

Learning Objectives

  1. Be able to explain strategies you can use for goal setting.
  2. Embrace strategies on how you can effectively deal with change.

Goal Setting

As we discussed, our emotional intelligence is the cornerstone for career success. Part of self-management is knowing ourselves and being able to set goals based on understanding our own needs and wants.

Many people end up adrift in life, with no real goal or purpose, which can show lack of self-management. Some people are happy this way, but most people would prefer to have goals that can set the direction for their life. It is similar to going on a road trip without a map or GPS. You might have fun for a while, going where the wind takes you, but at some point you may like to see specific things or stop at certain places, which creates the need for GPS. What happens if you have been driving aimlessly for a while but decide what you want to see is five hundred miles back the other way? A goal would have helped you plan the steps along the way in your trip. Goals are the GPS for your life. Research done by Locke et al. in the late 1960s shows a direct connection between goal setting and high achievement.Locke, Edwin A., Shaw, Karyll N., Saari, Lise M., & Latham, Gary P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological Bulletin, 90(1), 125–52. One of the most popular methods to setting goals is called the SMART philosophyA strategy to use when setting goals; includes goals being specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented.. This includes the following “steps” or aspects to goal setting:

  1. Specific. First, the goals need to be specific. Rather than saying, “I want to be a better person,” try a goal such as “volunteer two hours per week.” The more specific the goal, the more we are able to determine if we were successful in that goal. In other words, being specific allows us to be very clear about what we want to achieve. This clarity helps us understand specifically what we need to do in order to achieve the goal.
  2. Measurable. The goal must be measured. At the end of the time period, you should be able to say, “Yes, I met that goal.” For example, “increase my sales” isn’t measureable. Saying something such as, “I will increase my sales by 10 percent over the next two years,” is very specific and measureable. At the end of two years, you can look at how well you have performed and compare your goal with the result.
  3. Attainable. The goals should be something we can achieve. We must either already have or be able to develop the attitudes, skills, and abilities in order to achieve the goal. This doesn’t mean you need these skills right now, but it does mean over time you should be able to develop them. For example, if my goal is to become a light aircraft pilot, but I am afraid of flying, it may mean I am not willing (or able) to develop the skills and abilities in order to achieve this goal. So this goal would not be attainable and I should choose another one.
  4. Realistic. The goal that is set must be something you are willing and able to work toward. The goal cannot be someone else’s goal. For example, earning a business degree because your parents want you to may not be compelling enough to follow through with that goal. The goal should be realistic in terms of your abilities and willingness to work toward the goal. If I decided I wanted to be a WNBA player, this is probably not a realistic goal for me. I am too old; I am five feet two inches and not really willing to put in the time to get better at basketball. So as a result, I would likely not achieve this goal.
  5. Time-oriented. There should always be a timeframe attached to a specific goal. Most individuals will have longer-term and shorter-term goals. For example, a long-term goal might be to manage a medical lab. In order to meet this longer-term goal, shorter-term goals might include the following:

    • Earn a medical lab technology degree
    • Obtain employment as a medical lab tech
    • Develop skills by attending two conferences per year
    • Develop positive relationship with coworkers and supervisor by using emotional intelligence skills

Within all of our goals, there are shorter-term objectives. ObjectivesThe shorter-term goals we must do in order to accomplish our bigger goals. are the shorter-term goals we must do in order to accomplish our bigger goals. For example, possible objectives for two of the goals mentioned previously might be the following:

  • Earn a medical lab technology degree

    • Take three courses per quarter to finish in two years
    • Study at least three to six hours per day to earn a 3.5 GPA or higher
    • See my advisor once per quarter
    • Slot one night per week for social time, but focus on studies the rest of the time
  • Obtain employment as a medical lab tech

    • Do an internship in the last quarter of school
    • Create a dynamic resume
    • Obtain recommendations from instructors
    • Attend the quarterly medical lab networking event while in school

Another effective strategy in goal setting is writing goals down.Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal-setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Why is this so important? First, you are forced to clarify and think about specific goals using SMART objectives. Second, writing goals down can turn your direction into the right one, and you will be less likely to be sidetracked by other things. Writing goals down and revisiting them often can also provide an outlet for helping you celebrate meeting a certain objective. In our previous example, by writing these things down, we are able to celebrate the smaller successes such as earning a 3.7 GPA or finishing an internship.

Research performed published in the Academy of Management journal also suggests that goals are much more likely to be met if the goal is set by the person attaining the goal.Shalley, Christina E. (1995, April). Effects of coaction, expected evaluation, and goal setting on creativity and productivity. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2), 483–503. For example, if Sherry’s parents want her to become a dental hygienist, but she really wants to become an automotive technician, achieving the goal of dental hygienist may be more difficult, because it’s not her own. While this may seem obvious, we can easily take on goals that other people want us to achieve—even well into our adult life. Expectations from our partner, spouse, friends, and social group can influence our goals and make them not our own. For example, if in your group of friends all have the goal of becoming lawyers, we can assume this should be our goal, too. As a result, we may try to meet this goal but be unsuccessful or unmotivated because it isn’t truly what we want.

Another thing to consider about goal setting is that as we change, and situations change, we need to be flexible with them. For example, let’s say Phil has a goal of earning a degree in marketing. Suppose Phil takes his first marketing class but creates a great idea for a new business he would like to start once he graduates. At this point, Phil may decide earning an entrepreneurship degree instead makes the most sense. It is likely, as a result, since Phil’s goal has changed, objectives and timelines may need to change as well.

Revisiting our goals often is an important part to goal setting. One of the most popular examples for rigidity in goal setting was Ford. In 1969, the goal was to develop a car that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and was less than $2,000. This was to be done by the model year 1971. As you know, this was a very short time to reengineer and redesign everything the organization had done in the past. Ford met their goal, as the Ford Pinto was introduced in 1971.Why Goal Setting can Lead to Disaster. (2012, May 15). Forbes Magazine, accessed May 15, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/19/setting-goals-wharton-entrepreneurs-management_wharton.html However, due to the rush to meet the goal, common safety procedures were not followed in the development process, which resulted in disaster. Engineers did not look at the safety issues in placement of the fuel tank, which resulted in fifty-three deaths when the car went up in flames after minor crashes. While this is an extreme example, revisiting goals, including timelines, is also an important part of the goal-setting process.

Goal-Setting Tips

(click to see video)

This animation discusses goal setting and gives tips on how to set goals that are more achievable.

Why Human Relations?

In a 2005 studyKnight, Jennifer. (2005). Exploring emotional intelligence and IQ: Comparing violent and non-violent criminal offenders. Dissertation, accessed May 16, 2012, http://proquest.umi.com/pqdlink?did=913522881&Fmt=7&clientId =79356&RQT=309&VName=PQD that compared violence and emotional intelligence, inmates were divided into nonviolent offenses and violent offenses. When emotional intelligence was measured, there was a clear difference between emotional intelligence deficiencies and violence as a vehicle to act out emotions. This, of course, is an extreme example, but it proves the point: the ability to understand our emotions allows us to be better prepared to handle those emotions appropriately, which in turn can create success personally and at work. It allows us to create coping tools to deal with emotions such as anger and frustration.

The ability to manage ourselves helps us handle our emotions but also allows us to handle ourselves in other ways. For example, practicing self-management can teach us how to forgo immediate gratification to meet our goals, a necessary skill to create the kind of life you want. Time management, handling change, and other skills allow us to be successful personally and professionally.

Social awareness is a skill that helps us to see how we are affecting others. Often, we can get too tied up with ourselves and we fail to notice how another person is feeling. Someone who “gets” the social cues, for example, can develop positive working relationships and motivate people.

Relationship management can help us foster skills that help us maintain good working relationships with others. Learning how to handle conflict and communicate well are necessary skills to have a successful marriage, relationship, friendship, and work relationships.

All of these skills are part of every chapter in this book, as the core of a successful career and a happy work life is emotional intelligence skills.

Time Management

Part of reaching goals also refers to our ability to manage our time. This is also part of emotional intelligence, specifically, self-management—the ability to understand what needs to be done and appropriately allot time to achieve our goals. Time managementRefers to how well we use the time we are given. refers to how well we use the time we are given. In order to meet our goals, we must become proficient at managing time. Common tips include the following:

  • Learning how to prioritize. Develop the skills of making sure the most important things are done first (even if they are less fun).
  • Avoid multitasking. Focus on one task and finish it before moving on.
  • Don’t get distracted—for example, with e-mails, text messages, or other communications—while working. Set time aside to check these things.
  • Make to-do lists. These lists can be daily, weekly, or monthly. Organizing in this way will help you keep track of tasks and deadlines. However, note that a study by the Wall Street Journal suggested 30 percent of people spend more time managing their to-do list than actually doing the work on them.Sandberg, Jared. (2004, September 10). Though time-consuming, to-do lists are a way of life. The Wall Street Journal. Accessed March 18, 2012, http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/cubicleculture/20040910-cubicle.html To-do lists can help manage time but should not be a hindrance to actually getting things done!
  • Don’t overwork yourself. Schedule time for breaks and spend time doing things you enjoy.
  • Be organized. Make sure your workspace, computer, and home are organized so you can find things easier. Much time is wasted looking for a file on a computer or a specific item you misplaced.
  • Understand your work style, a self-awareness skill. Some people work better in the morning, while others work better at night. Schedule important tasks for times when you are at your peak.
  • Don’t say yes to everything. Everyone has a limit, and being able to say no is an important part of managing time.
  • Find ways to improve concentration. Learning how to meditate for twenty minutes a day or exercising, for example, can help focus your energy.

Effective time management can help us manage stress better but also ensures we can have time to relax, too! Making time management a priority can assist us in meeting our goals. Another important part of career success and personal success is the ability to deal with change, another aspect to emotional intelligence.

Dealing with Change

As we discussed, the ability to set goals is part of emotional intelligence. Perhaps equally as important, being flexible with our goals and understanding that things will change—which can affect the direction of our goals—is part of being emotionally intelligent.

Dealing with change can be difficult. Since most businesses are always in a state of flux, for career success, it is important we learn how to handle change effectively. But first, why do people tend to resist change? There are many reasons why:

  1. People are afraid the change will affect the value of their skills. For example, if people are afraid of new technology, this could be because they are nervous their skills on the old technology will no longer be useful to the company. To combat this concern, use a can-do attitude about these kinds of changes. Be the first to sign up for training, since we know technological change is a constant.
  2. People are concerned about financial loss. Many people worry about how the change will affect them from a financial perspective. Will it result in lost hours, lost income? If a change is introduced and you aren’t sure how it will affect these things—and it is not effectively communicated—the best course of action is to talk with your supervisor to clarify how exactly this change will affect you.
  3. Status quo is easier. People get comfortable. Because of this comfort level, change and the unknown seem scary. Try to always look for new ways to enhance and improve the workplace. For example, revisiting and improving the process for scheduling can help us from becoming stagnant.
  4. Group norms exist. Sometimes team members are happy to change, but the company does not have a culture that embraces change. Listening to people’s ideas and reacting positively to them can help create a climate of change. Avoiding defensiveness and “going along with the crowd” can help combat this reason for not embracing change.
  5. Leadership is required. The leadership in our organizations may not provide all of the information we need, or we may not trust them enough to lead us through a change. Despite this, change is inevitable, so obtaining clarification around the change expectations can be an important step to not only understanding the change, but helping the leader become a better leader.

When a change occurs or is occurring, people are likely to experience four phases associated with that change. First, they may experience denial. In this phase, they do not want to accept the change nor do they want to move on to the future. In the resistance phase, people may feel angry or hurt. They may wistfully think about how great things were before the change. In the third phase, exploration, the person may begin to accept the change but with some reservations. In this phase there may be confusion as people start to clarify expectations. In the commitment phase, people have accepted the change, understand how they fit with the change, know how the change will affect them, and begin to embrace it. For example, assume Alan is an expert on the company’s most popular product offering, a special computer program used for accounting purposes. He is the organization’s top seller, with many of his commissions coming from this product. However, the company has just developed new accounting software, which has much better features for customers. He might find this adjustment difficult because he is comfortable with the current software, and it has been lucrative for him to sell it. Here is how he might go through the phases:

  1. Denial. Alan does nothing. He continues about his job and ignores e-mails about the new product.
  2. Resistance. Alan tells his coworkers that the change is unnecessary and wonders why they can’t continue selling the old product. He discusses why the old product is much better than the new one. He may complain to his manager and find reasons why the change is a bad idea.
  3. Exploration. Alan is still nervous about the change but begins to use the new software and realizes it may have some worthwhile features. He wonders how that affects his ability to sell the product, and he begins to think about how he might sell the new software.
  4. Commitment. Alan takes some training classes on the new product and realizes how much better it is. He talks with his coworkers about the new product and helps them understand how it works. He sends an e-mail to his customers introducing the new software and all of its benefits.

As you can see in this example, Alan’s resistance to the change was because he didn’t understand the need to change at first and he was worried about how this change would affect the value of his skills.

Because of technology changes and the fact that many companies have global operations and the need for businesses to be agile, change is a constant force affecting business. Be positive about change and accept it as a necessary part of our work life. We cannot expect things to stay the same for very long. The better we can get at accepting change, the more successful we will likely be in our career.

Figure 2.2

This figure depicts the common process people go through when experiencing change. At each phase, the employee will have a different set of feelings. Leadership can go a long way to helping people understand the need for change, the reason for change, and explaining how the change will affect the employee.

Many a theory has been written about how people undergo change, but one of the more popular models is Lewin’s Model on Change.Lewin, Kurt. (n.d.). Frontiers of group dynamics. Human Relations, 1, 5–41. His model proposes three main phases to handling change:

  1. Unfreezing. Friction causes change and reduction of forces cause a change to happen. For example, suppose Gillian has been unhappy in her job for three years. She recently gets a new manager who she doesn’t like, and a friend tells her about a job at a competing company. In this case, friction occurred (the new manager). In addition, Gillian was worried she wouldn’t be able to find another job, but now that she knows about a new job, that reduces the forces that prevented her from changing to begin with.
  2. Change. Now that motivations to change have occurred, the change needs to actually occur. Change is a process, not one event at one time. For example, assume Gillian realized taking the new job makes sense, but even though she knows this, accepting the offer and going to her new job on the first day is still scary!
  3. Refreezing. Once the change has been made, the refreezing process (which can take years or days, depending on the change) is where the change is the new “normal.” People form new relationships and get more comfortable with their routines. Gillian, for example, likely felt odd taking a different way to her new job and didn’t know where to have lunch. Gradually, though, she began to meet people, got used to her new commute, and settled in.

Figure 2.3

Lewin’s Change Model suggests there must be a motivation to change before a change can take place.

When we become comfortable with change, we are able to allow change into our professional lives. Often, people are too afraid for various reasons to go after that promotion or a new job.

Lewin’s Change Model

(click to see video)

This short video explains how Lewin’s Change Model works. Willingness to change is necessary for career success!

Key Takeaways

  • Goal setting is a necessary aspect to career success. We must set goals in order to have a map for our life.
  • When we set goals, we should use the SMART goals format. This asks us to make sure our goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented.
  • When setting goals, we will also use objectives. Objectives are the shorter-term things we must do in order to meet our goals.
  • Time management is also a factor to goal setting. Developing good time management skills can bring us closer to our goals.
  • Learning how to deal with change is another way to ensure career success. Many people are adverse to change for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes it is easier to maintain status quo because we know what to expect. Other reasons may include concern about financial loss and job security, unclear leadership communication, and the existence of group norms.
  • Besides attitude and behavior, career promotion means being uncomfortable with possible changes. People resist change because of fear of job security, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, their individual personality, and bad past experience with change.
  • Lewin’s model suggests three phases of change, which include unfreezing, change, and refreezing. These changes indicate that some motivation must occur for the change to happen (unfreeze). Once the change occurs, there can still be discomfort while people get used to the new reality. Finally, in the refreezing part, people are beginning to accept the change as the new normal.


  1. Using the SMART model for setting goals, create at least three long-term goals, along with objectives.
  2. As you learned in this chapter, time management is an important part of meeting goals. Take this time management quiz to determine how well you currently manage your time: http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=3208. Do you feel the test results were accurate? Why or why not?