Reflective Essay on Setting Goals
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"Being realistic is the quickest road to mediocrity" (Diary Reference). We are always striving to become better versions of our self, constantly changing and adapting to new situation and circumstances. Individual difference and perspective play an important role in decision making and outlook which can translate into everyday practices. Although individuals are unique, useful tools can enable a better understanding of oneself and tap into capabilities that might not be apparent. The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes (Marcel Proust). Understanding oneself enables insights into areas for further improvement, therefore, goals need to be interesting and specific in order to be successful. Therefore the level of importance determines commitment and likelihood of persistence in goal setting activities (Locke and Latham, 2006).
By better understating individuals, commitment to goals is more likely to be content specific relating to personal attributes. Goals, therefore, cannot be vague and should be concentrated on areas of high competence (Drucker, 2008). Setting goals can be difficult and challenging and could take effort in reaching a state of "flow", an optimal state where the mind is stretched to its limit and a complete absorption in an activity enables the accomplishment of something worthwhile (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). This state is compounded as the level of engagement is perceived as challenging to one's capabilities, if tasks are too easy then engagement might decrease, whereas anxiety might persist if tasks are seemed too demanding (Locke and Latham, 2006).
The effect of self-motivation initiates the goal or challenging targets that individual strive for, this also bridges the gap between current state and the desired state (Locke et al., 1991). Henceforth, without a clear direction, the goal can be very difficult to monitor and accomplish. The choice of personal goal depends on the various factors such as past performance (Spaulding, 1994). When looking at myself, I realised that although I have accumulated diaries previously, I rarely come to set long term goal and rather they are just sets of reflection that I have come to observe. And when I do have goals, there is no clarity and honesty, therefore, reducing my commitment to follow goals (Baumeister, 1985, Latham, 1991). The nature of the module was approached with an open mind which made me proactive and more attentive to specific goals I wanted to undertake to become a better version of myself. It took me a while, but understanding the context specificity requirement of goals led me to become realistic. Furthermore, setting goals that are not too easy as harder goals will lead to greater effort and performance in contrast to easier goals (Yearta, 1995).
For any goals to be successful, the one who sets the goal needs to have a sense of purpose and interest, the commitment reflects the importance of the goal (Locke and Latham, 2006). The lack of motivation can correlate with the progression of the goal setting. Therefore, I decided to set goals that added and nurtured me as a character in my life. The specificity of my goal was reduced through interaction with people and module tutors with the help of multiple personality tests. Initially, taking the MBTI personality tests confirmed I was an ISFJ. Positive characterises aside, the test confirmed my trait of having low self-esteem, not focusing on the wider picture and failing to set priorities. Furthermore, using the Twenty Statement (Kuhn et al., 1954) encouraged me to stop swimming in the comfort zone and being honest in questionnaires showed me the value and an opportunity for character enhancement.
Therefore, I used these results as a basis for setting specific goals. In secondary school, my capabilities and negativity were addressed in school reports, although academically capable, my characteristics did not show this. In hindsight, my placement year in Nepal also helped me formulate my goals. My line manager would usually delegate tasks that required a high level of communication and positivity. Although the capability was there my general outlook and self-efficacy were put under tremendous pressure and test. Lack of positivity and general communication skill became more of a deterrent and moreover problematic. This could be visible in my academic performance, and my social skills when communicating my ideas. Lack of positivity towards goal setting and motivation was found to affect performance and create a state of high anxiety (Locke, 1968). And all this seemed interrelated to my goals, at times goals will be too difficult to achieve or too easy for me to be motivated to carry them out. Lack of positive outlook has been related to negative feedback (Swann, 1987), and as an ISFJ, a lower self-esteem characteristics showed negative attributes. The other factor is the way in which university is orientated, during my placement year abroad, the concept of time in Nepal was flexible, in contrast to the academic pressure and timetabled approached put upon by the institutions. This factor increases my self-motivation and goal setting became more important for me, having the right strategy and clear direction became more immediate. In Nepal my schedule will include waking up early at 5 AM and continuing the day till 10 PM in the afternoon, becoming productivity for 13 hours straight. However, back in university, the concept of time became foreign for me where I had to determine the importance and prioritise tasks accordingly.
Having been brought up in a resilient nation (Nepal) and moving schools constantly gave me a sense of disequilibrium, in turn, shaped my current personality of being observant and conservative. The lack of self-motivation translated into a pessimistic outlook in my life. Furthermore, an absence of positive emotions has hindered exploration of myself. Identifying the cause of such traits can help me develop strategic steps into building skills that blossom into useful talents. Writing about the positive experience can also better mood levels (Burton, 2004) and personally the concept of writing diaries has led to the clarity of thoughts and furthermore the recognition of my current situations (Travers, 2011).
Analysing further, there has been times where I have come to understand my personal characterises by being proactive. The martial art sport, taekwondo, has progressed me as a character and my self-confidence but has had little impact on my ability to articulate assertively. In relation to coaching, I find it personally difficult to assert my needs, which relates to my personality type (Myers, 1998). My personality type ISFJ, has a desire for structure (Myers, 1998) and closure, therefore creating a rapport and thinking on the feet can become an issue. In my placement year, I had ample amount of times where my coaching skills were tested. However, assertiveness was always something I lacked and furthermore translated into a character flaw. The ability to theoretically apply and analyse myself provided a greater insight into my personality which motivated my perseverance and accountability to this module.
When deciding on a goal, I had a clear understanding of what they were going to be. However, clearly stating and defining these were difficult. Having little experience in goal setting and in addition without a clear specific goal, my commitment would likely to erode (Locke and Latham, 2006). During my placement year in Nepal, work was flexible to deadlines and usually vague. It became visible that self-judgement and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986), was amongst many driving factors for my goal selection.
My main goals in relation to the module was to better understand myself by being more conscious about the environment that I was involved in, therefore mindfulness was something that has become a hurdle for me to overcome. As an ISFJ, I can be caught up in "catastrophizing", - imagining a host of negative possibility (Myers, 1998) that can halt my progression of goals, therefore choosing a goal required me to be realistic. The absence of self-regulation and valued goal commitment, has impacted the quality of my performance. My cognitive emotional response to explain behaviour usually caused further frustration and anxiety which lead to experiential avoidance when carrying out tasks (Gardner, 2004). In relation, my physical goals can at times be put off due to the discomfort it evokes, rather than learning to be mindful and accepting all internal and external experience there is a desire to avoid distress. The spiral of negativity is further strengthened by social mirror theory (Mead, 1967) and the concept of looking-glass self (McIntyre, 2006), where personally the interpretation of my goal is seen more of a hindrance than character development in relation to goal setting. Conducting my placement year abroad in Nepal did little in terms of amending my bad habits and integrating back into university life these habits needed to be addressed. Therefore specific (Locke and Latham, 1968), personal and SMART (Lawlor, 2012) goals were more likely to ensure my continuity.
My first goal was orientated towards physical exercise and fitness, with the objective to climb Mount Snowdon in just my shorts. The aim was to preserve through ten weeks (Start date: October 14th, End date: 2nd December) of cold immersion therapy, to increase my self-efficacy. My direction was following a workout routine and video tutorial each week presented by Wim Hof with challenges and techniques to attain this goal. I used an online application such as Evernote (Appendix 1) for routine planning, in the first couple of weeks to get me started. As an ISFJ, the strong sense of responsibly and duty (Personality Page, 2016) made me more committed towards the goal.
Once I started doing the deep breathing and cold ice showers, I felt the physical benefits instantly and this progress continued throughout the day. However, the hardest part would be to ensure that I kept sticking to the routine that I had allocated. My self-efficacy increased by seeing similar individuals succeed similar goals by sustained effort (Bandura, 1986) on social media which sustained my motivation and belief that such feats were possible through effort.
My second goal was aimed at nurturing positivity, by doing 10,000 sun salutations (Start Date: 27th November, End date: 1st January 2017). In regards to this goal, changing my outlook on life towards mindfulness and mental wellbeing. A perceived lack of positivity and ignorance has previously been problematic and a hindrance, therefore, creating a SMART achievable plan was the first objective. The purpose was to flourish the effect of positive psychology (Seligman, 2010) and capitalise on them. ISFJ are recognised for suppressing their feeling and usually, the backseat drivers, recognising such traits was useful analysis as these habits were becoming a hindrance in social aspects. Using goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1960), and further understanding psychological flexibility in the present moment (Biglan, 2008) allowed me to alter the goal in manageable chunks which increased my commitment to the goal and a move towards desired achievable targets.
Researching on Duhigg's work on changing habits, I addressed my habit in a way that would benefit the outcome of my goal. It was to not create new habits but changing the existing ones (Duhigg, 2012). I would previously, as a habit, be demotivated to do salutations, especially on a Wednesday (due to sports commitment in the evening) and on day of unsuccessful attempts (after gym sessions) promote this unfavourable behaviour with a nap. These continued to be my reward but using them only after I have tallied up a set number of salutations on my notebook. This insight was further reinforced as cues when I applied it to my physical activities, such as running. This therefore involved taking initiative in improving current circumstance and challenging the status quo rather than passively adapting to present conditions (Crant, 2000).
My final goal was aimed towards enhancing my coaching ability by being more assertive. Coaching is the art of facilitating performance, learning and development of others (Downey, 1999).Having prior experience at coaching the junior level (teaching kids aged ten to twelve) I understood the demand that coaching required. However, balancing assertive and empathy has been a challenge. Therefore coaching an athlete to win gold at the university taekwondo championship (Start date: 18th November, End date: 3rd December 2016) was my way of assessing and improving my assertiveness. Assertive characteristics have shown to be a factor for personal development (Downey, 1999) and using so will hopefully improve my coaching abilities.
As an ISFJ, there is a need for structure and balance, contrary to coaching which requires the ability to challenge situations and one's belief and accept differing opinions from others. Using John Heron's style of coaching was a useful tool for understanding my approach to help, using the model I identified myself as supportive. Furthermore, the practice of unconditional positive regard by Carl Rodgers (Therapy, 2016) allowed me to understand that there is no one way to approach coaching and that there needs to be mutual respect without judgement and evaluation. When I am in the position of responsibility I failed to recognise certain aspects of my client such as religious barriers and personality, which at times, made her difficult to open up. Therefore, a person-centric approach (Rodgers, 1981) was used which suggests that people are intrinsically motivated to grow when the right social environmental conditions are present.
Creating a space, free of threat, with the right balance between assertiveness and accommodating allowed openness where the newly taught concepts were not forced upon. Previously such approach would have made her uncomfortable and fearful. At an optimal level, a person-centric approach emphasises the formation of collaborative which is important in determining coaching effectiveness (Palmer, 2009). My communication style was also a factor for increasing assertiveness. Using motivational interviewing also increased her self-efficacy (Miller, 2012) by focusing on previous success and highlighting skills and strengths she already possessed. The desired state at the end of the goal is to assert myself by being more person-centric.
Furthermore, transitional approach to coaching helped me identify and bridge the gap in communication style to make the client more autonomous of her decisions and express authenticity. Conceptualising my ego state of balancing the parent style of being assertive and critical, in contrast, the client approach of being a child and resistant. The aim was to be assertive without "pushing" them too much (Napper & Newton, 2000), which is the components of collaborating.
With respect, defining and setting specific goals was initially going to be difficult. With the nature of the goal and external factors such as academic and social pressure arising, staying motivated and committed to the desired state was going to be a challenge.
Initially, the time bracket was a motivational factor in the progression of the goals, which kept me committed. However, as time progressed there was a visible sign of demotivation which was further fuelled by the academic pressure to do well. Waking up early every morning in order to complete my goal became more of a hindrance and a mundane routine than a motivation.
In relation to the first goal, there was a constant battle with my inner voice to see results and I found it hard to keep up with consistent training. My motivation decreased as the novelty of going to new areas for trekking was limited in my area and furthermore, academic pressure meant little time to pursue and truly immerse myself in the goal setting process. Analysing aspects of my diary, I had written the word "hard" thirteen times and even starting my week seven with this negativity which correlates to the academic pressure and goal setting motivation. Furthermore, the word negativity persisted as week nine progressed to over twelve entries containing the word "demotivated". I analysed that the days where I engaged in physical activity and used a checklist to cross out were the days where I used words like "relaxed", using the mood questionnaire also became a measurable object. However these goals were personal and systematically engaging in this process was building up my resilience and enhancing self- regulation (Baumeister, Gailliot, DeWall, & Oaten, 2006). Simply staying focused and overcoming such barriers increased my motivation to reach this goal due to self-confidence and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986). Using Beacon Hill as a motivator despite the cold weather made me realise the reality of the challenge. Although the desired state became my motivation small incentive of getting closer to the goal kept me motivated and focused on the goal at hand (Appendix 2).
The ambitious goal that I had set in the beginning of the term to reach 10,000 sun salutation by three months was unreliable, but goals need to be challenging and have aspects that make it complex (Locke & Latham, 1960). Furthermore, self-initiative and self-direction are paramount in problem solving (Davidson and Sternberg, 2003). When procrastination arose I used the excuse of "I am tired" to go back to sleep. Therefore, following a routine and giving myself a treat of watching TV or immersing myself in communal events gave me incentives to progress. Keeping a diary of the number of salutations has helped me immensely, waking up in the morning and checking tangible past progress of events is one of those motivational factor. The mood indicators enabled me to visually orientate my perspective into seeing challenges as hurdles.
Although this was a progression and a measure of my more specific goal of being more positive I saw how both variables were interlinked. Positive reinforcement strengthened my behaviour as every time I finished my goal, I would get to cross off the task and reward myself with a nap, therefore increasing the likelihood of me repeating this behaviour in the future (McLeod, 2015). Although I was persistent with my goal setting for the first month, it wasn't until I went back home to see a friend halfway through my goal which made me lose track of where my goal was supposed to take me. When I grasped that motivation to complete something relies on you having an intrinsic interest in the task at hand as well as the belief you can carry out the goal (Davidson and Sternberg, 2003), I started to use the method of chunking (Neal, 2006) which allowed me to progress through my long term goal by setting smaller goals (Appendix 3). When I realised that the link between positivity and my goal setting was being affected, and when the desired state became more personal, it became easier for me to reach such goals. In the world after graduation, there will be moments where life events will prevent progression or clarity, it is, therefore, a useful skill to be able to identify and reflect on such behaviour and find a way of systematically continuing even at the times of adversary.
Additionally, the commitment to this goal was further enhanced by feedback of my progression (Locke & Latham, 2002). My challenger back in Nepal initially agreed to give me feedback on this aspect of my goal, however, due to their personal commitment it did not happen until a couple of weeks on. When I did get the feedback, goal clarity was prominent and feedback gave me areas for improvement. In turn, the motivation persisted and tangible aspect related to positivity due to mindfulness (Orzech et al, 2009) was becoming more prominent.
Finally, although the client I was coaching for three weeks lost her fight, I have come to learn about setting specific goals and learning to be more assertive (Appendix 4). Evident from my diary were pointers where I learnt and reflected about my approaches and methods used for effective coaching. By learning and applying theories proposed by Carl Rodgers on unconditional positive regard and motivational interviewing allowed me to bridge that gap between theories applied and real life techniques needed. Before my approach would be prescriptive which was unsuitable in this context. Changing and modifying my approach towards supportive enabled a safe environment where being assertive was more applicable. By evaluating transactions between people we have a great resource to identify how others might see us (Newton et al., 2007). With a consideration for Johari window (Luft et al., 1961) on self, I was trying to identify my "unknown area" and progress through self-discovery. By enlarging the open area, I felt my own character opening up and becoming more expressive as time progressed. The use of this framework enabled me to recognise and increase my awareness of my assertiveness and coaching capabilities, furthermore, understand the feeling of others.
During this course, I found it hard and sometimes difficult to give equal attention to the goals. Commitment to the desirable end state of the goal leads to emphasise one goal over another (Fishbach and Zhang, 2008). Therefore the use of Gibbs models (Gibbs, 1988) on self-reflection allowed me to get into daily routines and evaluation. Nurturing long-term character traits has been a central thread running through all three of my goals. Goals by themselves, generate linear growth, habits are capable of generating exponential growth and change. I believe that human complexities can be directed towards achieving the desired state, having a system is what matters and then falling in love with the commitment.
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TO do: Add dates to the challenges
Add one more appendix for sun salutations
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