#22 Why Won’t People Commit To Their Goals?

May 19, 2009 by Stacey Barr

There are many reasons why people won’t stay committed to their goals, but it’s much easier to work with the reasons why they will stay committed. Here are four of those reasons, expressed as tactics you can deploy to make it much easier for people to keep to their goals.

TACTIC #1: Involve people to create goals that they value.We’re not robots, that unquestioningly do whatever our programmer tells us to do. We are humans, with the power of free will and choice. And no-one in their right mind is going to blindly give their time and energy (let alone their blood, sweat and tears) to achieving a goal they don’t care about.

One of the best ways to get people to value their goals is to very actively involve them in choosing goals that are clearly relevant to the work they take pride in and to their personal values. For example, goals to do with trainee satisfaction and learning would matter to a trainer who took pride in their delivery.

TACTIC #2: Help people understand why their goals matter beyond their role.

We all know we work as part of a larger system, and want to know what we do is valuable in that system. So linking personal goals to company or organisational success is worth taking the time.

This means making obvious the cause-effect relationship of achieving our goals and the company acheiving its goals. For example, by trainers achieving high levels of trainee satisfaction and learning, the company vision of being a world-class training provider becomes the truth and not just a motherhood.

TACTIC #3: Allow people some sense of WIIFM from their goals.

WIIFM: what’s in it for me? The WIIFM will be different for different people, but tapping into it will be the same as tapping into an endless supply of fuel to pursue the goals.

But don’t think you can decide this for them! Only they can find a meaningful WIIFM for themselves. For example, by achieving goals to do with trainee satisfaction and learning, a trainer has evidence of how good a trainer they are which is great for their career, and they get the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing they’ve helped others.

TACTIC #4: Consistently remind people that their goals are important.

But don’t just do a monthly rant about goals being important. Remind people of how important their goals are by celebrating progress toward the goals, inquiring about how progress is going, giving continual attention and energy to helping them achieve their goals.

For example, if a trainer receives higher satisfaction ratings for 3 workshops in a row, celebrate by buying them a decadent cupcake. If progress has plateaued, brainstorm with them for ideas to get moving again.

Humans are not assets.

Contrary to popular terminology, people are NOT the organisation’s or company’s greatest assets. People ARE the organisation or company. If we treat them like any other asset, however valuable, we miss out on the power that comes from their free will, engagement and passion in pursuing goals that simultaneously matter to them and to the organisation.

What’s the process of setting personal and team goals in your organisation or company? Is it based on these tactics? Next time you’re involved in setting personal or team goals, give deliberate attention to each of the above tactics and notice how differently people feel about their goals. Are they confident or cautious, excited or indifferent?


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  1. Paul Chippendale says:

    From my experience, one of the main reasons people don’t commit to their goals is because they have no priority values associated with those goals.

    When that happens, I usually ask why that goal is important to them. After some reflection they decide it was a goal someone else convinced them they should should have.

    No one should have goals which have no link to the person’s values.

  2. Paul Chippendale says:

    In my experience, people who don’t commit to a goal have no priority values to support the goal.

    When asked why they chose the goal, they will usually, eventually, indicate that it was a goal that others have convinced them should be important.

    It’s virtually impossible to commit to a goal which has no values to support it.

  3. Stacey says:

    Paul – so nice to hear from you!

    I actually had you in mind when I wrote the comment in the article about people valuing their goals. Your work on values has left an indelible impression on me, and be a great influencer of my work.

    For those who read this comment, check out Paul’s website for more fantastic information on values and why they matter so much: http://www.minessence.net/

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