Setting goals

Goals, both large and small, help you guide our behaviour.



Help people plan





How many times have you said 'I'll start exercising tomorrow', 'I'll save more next month' or 'I'll eat healthier after I finish the biscuits'? But will the best will or want, we just don't.

We've all been there.

Starting a new behaviour is hard when that behaviour is general, or undefined. We can help people to start something new by breaking down the behaviour into goals. Creating goals with people to make sure that they work for them.

Setting goals helps people feel accountable. Makes it easier to get started and makes it harder to ignore.


Set Goals With Impact:

  1. Avoid wishful thinking.
    Goals should be based around clear plans, set actions and be defined. For example I will run for 10 minutes once a day is more effective that I want to exercise more.

  2. Incorporate interests.
    Creating goals in an area we are not interested is a waste of time. Try and couple the new behaviour goals with tasks, interests or activities that people are already interested in. Sometimes coupling something they really want to do, with something less alluring. (Temptation bundling)


SMART goal setting

Lasting behaviour change is supported by creating SMART goals:


The goal should be say exactly what people want to achieve. The clearer and more specific the better. E.g "I will save for a holiday" is better that "I will save money".


Adding a measure or value means we can see when we have achieved the goal. E.g. "I will save £200 for a holiday".


The wording of the goal has a big influence on whether it is done. Structure goals as actions. E.g "Put £10 in my savings account every week" is better that "Save money".


Goals should be achievable. Not so large that they appear unachievable, but not so small they are done too quickly. E.g "I will put £10 in my savings account every week" is better than "I will save all my salary".


Giving goals a limit increases people's motivation. It makes us act now, as opposed to later. Longer-term goals should also be broken into smaller milestones to keep people motivated. E.g "I will save money for my holiday by April" is better that "I will have money"


How to use


Start using Goal setting by asking yourself…

  • How do we discover what goals are important to people?

  • How might we help people select their own goals?

  • How might we structure our product or service to help people achieve their goals?

  • What if we help people break down larger goals to make them more achievable?

  • What if we include either a specific context, frequency, duration or intensity to make the goal stickier?

  • What if we help people create SMART goals?