Plan Your Goals with Care

A good friend and his wife were getting ready for work the other day, going through their normal morning routines and chatting about the pending sale of their home.  As he brushed his teeth, she wondered aloud,

“I am so looking forward to closing on the 8th!”

He replied, “Me, too.  But I just hope we make it through the inspection without any trouble.  You know how problems always come up.”

She was a bit irritated by this pessimism, and added, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t think about that.  I’d like to think that everything will go smoothly.”

He then added, “See honey.  That’s probably why my life is filled with pleasant surprises.  I just set my expectations low.  With everything.”

“Everything?!” she asked, while holding up her left hand and showing him her wedding band.

“Um… did I say everything? I meant, to say, ‘Where would you like to go to dinner tonight?’”

While my friend’s story does a great job of illustrating what not to say to your spouse, it also highlights the catch-22 of expectation setting.  While we would all like to set the bar high, it’s also important to know how this type of goal setting can affect a leader’s ability to think critically. Here are some tips to effectively manage expectations to assure we achieve our plans.

  1. Beware the Stretch Goal– Though common knowledge suggests otherwise, the latest research on goal setting shows that organizations setting stretch goals are more likely to experience a performance decline and lower morale.  Check out this excellent article by Ray Williams
  2. Unmet Expectations Creates Anxiety – The latest neuroscience research shows that our brains perceive unmet expectations as a threat.  And any threat can activate our limbic system, allowing fight or flight responses to take over.  Rather than focusing on unrealistic goals, take control of your thinking by realistically exploring a variety of potential problems from a new initiative, and how you will deal with each one should it occur.
  3. Celebrate Small Wins – If you must set lofty goals and expectations, break them down into small, measurable wins.  Build the celebrations into your plans.  Celebrating these small wins creates a “reward” state in the brain, leading to more energy for the prefrontal cortex that does the bulk of our logic, reasoning, and processing. This is your recipe for success.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients plan and achieve peak performance for over thirty-five years.  If you would like some assistance with achieving your goals and eliminating regret, give us a call at 1-800-386-5611!  We would love to help.

























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