How to set goals that will motivate you to achieve more

Posted on February 14th, by Dr Rob Yeung . 1 Comment

What are your professional or personal goals right now? For my work, I’m trying to write more short pieces to put on my Instagram and LinkedIn profiles. And for myself, I am aiming to (and so far managing to) do three Youtube workouts a week. But what about your goals?

Psychological research continues to identify methods we can use to boost the likelihood that we will achieve our goals. I’ve written about other techniques for setting goals before, but here’s a new one.

Imagine you want to read a certain number of pages of a book every day. Is it better to set a specific goal (e.g. “I will read 50 pages a day”) or a range (e.g. “I will read 40 to 55 pages a day”) to reach?

So which do you think is better?

Go on. Have a guess.

In a series of studies, researchers Maura Scott at Florida State University and Stephen Nowlis at Washington University examined this exact question. In one experiment, the researchers looked at participants who either set specific or ranged goals with regards to weight loss. In another experiment, the participants set specific or ranged goals in an attempt to spend less in a supermarket. In yet another experiment, participants decided upon specific or ranged goals in their attempt to solve as many challenging brainteasers as they could. There were other experiments, too.

In study after study after study, the researchers found that setting a range actually helped people to achieve more. In other words, set a high-low range goal if you want to boost your motivation and subsequent achievement.

Suppose you want to read 50 pages of a book a day. Perhaps you could set a range from say 40 to 50 pages. So reading 50 pages would be a great outcome for the day. But even 40 would be a decent outcome. In any case, the research suggests that having a high-low range will actually help you to achieve more on average than having the single target of 50 pages.

Or, imagine you want to walk 10,000 steps a day. Perhaps you could give yourself a high goal of say 11,000 steps a day and a lower goal of only 8,000 or 9,000 steps. Again, the research evidence suggests that having the high-low range goal may ultimately motivate more steps a day.

So, think back to your own goals for a moment. How could you transform them into high-low range goals?

One Response to “How to set goals that will motivate you to achieve more”

  1. […] written about the psychology of setting high-low goals on this very […]

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