Barack Obama had a clear vision of his future apparently – as President of the United States of America. Similarly, the Olympic athlete Linford Christie had the single-minded goal of winning the 100m. And countless business students and self-help fans have learned that goal setting is essential to success. Wrong. Plain wrong.
Research shows that goal setting only works for goal oriented individuals. In other words people motivated by goals and targets tend to do well when they set themselves some kind of goal. Sales people are goal-oriented, as are entrepreneurs. If you are not goal-oriented, however, no amount of goal setting actually helps you achieve.
At least that’s established theory. But new research challenges the whole notion of goal motivation and provides a clue as to how the so-called goal-oriented individuals actually achieve their heart’s desires. Some really clever research at the University of Illinois has looked deep inside the notion of goal-setting and produced some surprising findings.
All that self-help claptrap about affirmations and saying “I will be [whatever you want]” only succeeds in a limited number of people. The highest success rate in achieving some kind of goal happened when people converted the “I will” kind of statement into “Will I?”. In other words, having a fixed, target-driven frame of mind was LESS SUCCESSFUL in achieving the desired aim than having an open, but questioning mind.
It seems that those goal-oriented individuals are probably not succeeding because they are goal-driven after all. It looks like they are better at turning the goal into a “self talk” kind of question. When they set themselves some kind of daft target they are probably not constantly reaffirming “I will double my website traffic this month” but actually, perhaps subconsciously, asking themselves “Will I double my website traffic this month?”.
The rest of us who are not motivated by goals no longer need to worry. All we have to do is simply ask “WIll I…” and the chances of success are improved significantly it seems. That’s because when you set yourself a goal, as a statement, the back of our mind goes “No, can’t be done…” and so, guess what, we don’t really bother. Sales people do because they are motivated by proving that internal challenge wrong, by winning over the negativity…! If you are not the “winning kind”, you just stick with the negatives of “it won’t be possible”.
But turn it on its head and ask yourself a question “Will I…” your brain doesn’t go “No, it can’t be done”, instead it goes into working out how it might be possible to achieve. That then helps bring forward the solutions and helps your brain go into problem solving mode. Together, that means success is more likely.
This new study confirms that question asking of the “Will I” variety is far more successful than goal setting in terms of achieving success. And that has important implications for your web business. Instead of saying “We want to be Number One on Google” ask yourself “Will I be Number One on Google?”. Similarly, instead of saying “I will start blogging next Friday” merely ask yourself “Will I start blogging next Friday”?”
Turn all your goal-oriented and target-driven statements into questions and your online business is likely to improve dramatically.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+