Having a clear and compelling goals not only trigger actionable behaviour and guide your focus, but also set momentum to step up for optimal states of performance and builds self-efficacy. Personal or professional goal-setting is important because it allows you to take control of your life’s direction, and provides meaning and structure to determine whether you are making progress towards these goals or not. Meaningful goal pursuit leads to healthy psychological functioning and positive life outcomes.
To be successful, you have to be committed to your goals, whether it is your career, personal, financial or business related. You have to be sufficiently committed to the goals to make them a priority. But many times, we adrift and don’t see many of the goals we set through completion and fall short of them. This is because many of us don’t consider whether or not all of our goals are in alignment.
Why do we fall short of our desired goals?
There are many things that can get in the way of our achievement of goals. At times, we all feel lazy and unproductive which is quite normal. Other times, we come across obstacles that are situational, related to timing or opportunity, for instance, living during new normal where there is a paradigm shift in the way we work, live and do things. As a result, our goals shift with the course of the circumstances, time, any crisis or uncertainty. But most importantly, we may be creating the obstacles ourselves with our approach, mindset or methods where the goals we set conflict with one another.
Many don’t reach their goals not because they didn’t strongly wish they would, but because some of their goals probably are in conflict with other areas of their life, or they hadn’t figured out how those goals fit in with the other things they wanted in their life at the time they set them. If one goal isn’t compatible with the other, you are much more likely to fall short of both.
What is goal conflict?
Goal conflict is a state in which different parts of the system are working towards different goals and objectives at an organisational level. But at a personal level, a goal conflict is the existence of two or more competing goals leading to the cause of conflict in an individual’s mindset. It occurs when two or more motives block each other or when the pursuit of one goal undermines or interferes the pursuit of another valued goal that you want to simultaneously want to accomplish.
This is a common recurring problem that many would experience where they are most likely to abandon their most important goals at the cost of another. Perhaps you’ve focused on your career, but neglected your health goals. Or focused on a new relationship and then neglected your friends or career. Similarly, when you try to pursue a new skill, maintain a social life, aim for a new job, lose weight, has study commitments, all of your required goals might not be congruent.
Goal conflict is the degree to which we feel our multiple goals are in conflict. A good example for this is, if a person’s most important goal is to achieve work-life balance, but his equally important business or career goals might interfere with achieving it. The more time he or she might give to their work or career goals, the less time they have for their personal goals like hobbies, health or relationships. Goal conflicts may also arise because of
- Not having clarity on the purpose of your goal or what the goal really means to you might reduce your desire to accomplish or commitment towards one over the other.
- Lack of or changed priorities
- When you pursue multiple goals that are either interdependent or depend on same resources, you will find yourself trying to juggle competing priorities and are bound to create goal conflicts.
- Not having a clear roadmap or plan of how to get to your end goal might keep you in conflict with other areas of your life where you will be forever changing course.
- Making your goals too big or complicated or grossly underestimating how much time it takes to accomplish them.
Goal conflict vs goal congruence
Goal conflict often leads to procrastination, decreased performance and increased opportunity cost where each time you commit your energy to one thing, you often unknowingly choose to pull away from some of your other competing goals. And abandoning your most important goals often results in experiencing negative emotions like guilt, worthlessness, dilemma, and disappointment. On the other hand, when two or more goals complement each other or fit together, you are more likely to be motivated to accomplish them.
Goal conflict leads to inconsistencies between your plans and actions which can in turn sabotage your efforts and reduce your confidence. It influences your motivation negatively leaving you anxious, confused and frustrated. Whereas goal congruence powers your motivation to devise ‘best fit’ strategies to achieve them successfully.
How to achieve goal congruence
All of us have limited amount of resources like time, patience, attention and focus each day and no matter how passionately you commit to one, none of us can accomplish all things all of the time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set and achieve goals in all facets of your life. You can always create goals in all areas of your life, career, personal, business , hobbies, health and so on. But If you don’t strive for goal congruence, you stand at the risk of feeling overwhelmed by them. Here are some strategies to achieve congruence in your goal-setting.
Unlock the sense of ‘why’
When we set a goal, we just define what the goal is, like a new behaviour or a new outcome. Very few times that we take time to reflect on the reason as to ‘why’. Unlocking the sense of purpose can make all the difference on whether or not to you will pursue it. Focusing solely on outcome, your goal-setting may not be congruent as you normally don’t think about the time and effort it requires to get there.
When two of your goals come into conflict with one another, it is always important to ask yourself “Why do I want to achieve this?“ “Why did I set this goal in the first place?” “What does this mean to me and my work?” to figure out whether either of your conflicting goals are based on any random or unreasonable outcomes.
It is only by establishing a key reason for wanting to attain each of your goals that you can start getting them aligned with one another. Asking “Why?” helps you tap into some powerful reasons or motivations you would otherwise have not considered and will be more likely to achieve goal congruence.
Align with your long-term priorities
It’s easy to set many goals because you feel like to fill your life with activities that seem productive, but may not align them with your long-term priorities. Your goals should align with your long-term priorities and should set you up for what you want to be in future. Otherwise, you will end up regretting about the things you wish you’d accomplish. Also, setting too many goals to come due at the same time can often lead to goal incongruence.
A large number of goals are okay if they are small and simple. But avoid setting large number if difficult goals that involve major changes at the same time. It is important to remember that it is not the number of goals that define your success, but how congruent are they with your major or long-term priorities.
Strive for goal balance
When you have several goals, conflict occurs when two goals require more work and different focus. Which should I focus on? If only one goal should be pursued, which should it be? This can waste time and cause you to lose productive effort as you try to meet different tasks with separate goals.
Since a goal isn’t one thing, but involves different factors like motive, specific target, time frame, constraints and effort, when two of your goals take up similar resources, they can appear to be at odds with another. Look for ways to combine goals and tasks based on external factors like, where, when, with or whom? Knowing yourself like your present competencies, values, and limitations might help you figure what things might interfere and support your goals and what incongruences might arise.
Reconfigure your goals.
From time to time, it is essential to remind yourself the goals you have and why they are important. Also, at a time when there is uncertainty or crisis, it is essential to avoid holding yourself to the same goals and standards that you did in the normal situations. When there are limitations due to external circumstances, additional stress of striving towards the goals you have set for yourself can sometimes feel overwhelming and you might find it difficult to access the same levels of motivation that you did in the past.
When things are continuously shifting, it is not possible to estimate risks or make well informed decisions. So, instead of focusing on long-term goals, you can reevaluate your goals to set certain short-term goals for the present by setting smaller milestones like weekly or monthly goals to measure your progress.
Questions for self-reflection
Are your major life goals congruent or in conflict with one another?
Which areas of your life, do you have goals set— social, career, personal, health, financial, personal improvement? Are they compatible with one another?
What changes can you make to your goal-setting process to achieve congruence?
Do you set goals that are congruent with who you are- values, beliefs, capabilities and competencies?
What impact is pursuing your priority goals like;y to have on your time and other resources?
What areas of your life could suffer the consequences of your goal incongruences?
What other areas of your life you could improve if you strive for goal congruence?
Goal-setting isn’t simply putting a goal on paper and setting a date for completion. It is about committing yourself for the long-term to who you want to become or what ultimately you want to achieve. And a key ingredient to achieving this is to make sure your goals are totally compatible with goals you have in different areas of your life. The purpose of congruence is not to limit the goals you set, but is to make sure the goals you set are attainable and achievable.
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