Well-being

The benefits of flexible goal setting

Flexible goal setting

Our perspective on goal setting has been changing over recent years with less emphasis on big long term goals, but a shift towards breaking these down into smaller more achievable goals. The pandemic has certainly accelerated a new way of thinking around determing our goals as the last 18 months has shown us that our world can change overnight. With lockdown and restrictions in place, our goals, dreams and resolutions may have been stopped in their tracks with the inability to achieve or proceed with the goals we had set.

Setting goals is important for us to achieve in both our personal and professional lives, and for our overall happiness.

However, if our goals are unachievable due to external events or our own lack of direction or motivation, this can lead to feelings of disappointment, failure and a lack of impulsion to succeed. All of which can be detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing.

Flexible goal setting is about adjustment. It is about finding our own strategies to cope and succeed when circumstances in our lives change. Without allowing ourselves the flexibility to make changes, a fixed long-term plan will not help us. Being flexible and adaptable is not about changing your mind or giving in, it is about allowing yourself to adapt to an ever evolving environment in order to accomplish your goals.

Making smaller goals or breaking down our larger goals into smaller ones that we can realistically achieve is known as micro-goal setting. This doesn’t mean that we give up on our long term ambitions and desires, it just means that we have more chance of getting there! Micro-goal setting enables us to make gradual and continuous improvements by taking small steps. They are task specific goals that need to be done regularly in order to achieve our bigger goals. So instead of trying to make drastic changes with time restrictions, making small improvements every day will start to compound on each other and make the chances of reaching your target more attainable. And, should life circumstances change, flexible goal setting makes it easier to adapt with the ability to make any adjustments to your daily tasks as required.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens, and when it happens, it lasts” John Wooden, Coach and Teacher

The benefits of micro-goal setting

  • Micro-goals are about the present. They force us to do our tasks now and not in the distant future.
  • Small steps and small progress gives us daily purpose and personal satisfaction
  • Provides us with a direction to our ultimate destination.
  • Provides motivation that helps us to initiate, proceed and maintain our goal-orientated behaviours.
  • Boosts mental health with a sense of accomplishment, increased self-esteem and confidence.
  • A better understanding of our own expectations
  • Helps us to clarify what is important in our lives, giving us more control over our future

How to set micro-goals

Establish your goals Work out what is important to you and how you are going to get there. Stay focused on achieving small chunks of progress, breaking down large tasks into small manageable ones.

Timelines Either set a realistic timeline or don’t set one at all! Setting time constraints can cause stress and hinder your achievement, so take care when giving yourself a deadline!

Set realistic expectations. Too higher an expectation can lead to disappointment and failure. Most things in life that are worthwhile take time and effort to get there.

Mindset. Instead of only thinking about the end goal, think about the progress you are making each day to get there. Focus positively on the small successes you make. And keep a check on negative self-talk – think about how you want to feel and aim your attention to positive thinking.

Believe in yourself. Setting micro-goals will help you to develop the skill of belief.  The belief that you can accomplish your goals – not just the steps that get you there! Building momentum will give you the confidence and belief that you can reach your goals.


To be more open and flexible with the ability to make adjustments, is crucial not just in accomplishing our objectives but to help us achieve optimal wellbeing too. Wellbeing People’s Recalibrate Wellbeing® Programme focusses on 1% progress experiments. We believe it’s the small things you do every day that result in life changing long-term transformations. Conscious choices and consistent implementation support significant improvements to physical and mental wellbeing.

References and further reading

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/


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