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Business prof: Resolve to make 2011 a goal-setting year

By Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-5400

Listen up self-improvement enthusiasts: Resolve to set personal goals for the new year.

Dr. Bruce Meglino, an expert in work values and organizational behavior at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, says resolutions are often ineffective and quickly forgotten, gathering dust like unused exercise equipment.

“A specific goal that is measurable and precise is better than the ‘to do my best to’ approach of New Year’s resolutions,” Meglino said.

Research shows that it doesn’t matter whether you or someone else, such as a supervisor at work, sets the goal, he said. Accepting it is what matters.

“Accepting a goal means you are ready to tackle it and that you can see yourself as able to do it,” Meglino said. “As long as you accept a goal, it doesn’t matter who sets it.”

Meglino said goals should be challenging, and he cautions people against setting the bar too low.

Effective goals should have several additional components, including a degree of difficulty and a need for feedback, he said.

“People tend to perform better when a goal is more difficult,” he said. “Moreover, when a person achieves a goal, they have a tendency to raise the bar and set another goal that is generally more difficult.”

He said feedback plays an important role in helping people achieve goals. People whose goals yield visible results, such as arriving to work at an earlier time or losing a certain amount of weight, are more apt to receive feedback from others. Other types of feedback may have to be built into goals that are less public.

“Think of feedback as the ‘breakfast of champions’; it makes it easier for you to be successful,” said Meglino, who said feedback can be positive reinforcement or constructive critique.

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