See below for the theory and research behind the goalsetting acronym, PLASMA. But first, lets just jump straight in.



In setting a goal, ask yourself, is it clear why are you doing this?  You’ve all seen the Simon Sinek TED talk; does it fit in with your values and ethics and your very identity?



To be effective, a goal must be referred to on adaily basis.  The excitement, endorphins and energy created by thinking of achieving your goal, will be needed in order to overcome the hurdles which are in your way if you are to make progress towards your goal today.



Your goal must be understood and agreed by, all relevant parties; this might mean your organisation, your line manager, your employees or even your family.  Ensure your goal fits well within the context of the rest of your work/life and then go public with it!



Your overarching goal can be really quite ambitious as long as the clearly defined steps towards it are stretching but achievable (goldilocks steps; not too big, not too small.) Realize how tough it will be to move forward and what the obstacles are in your way.  Make sure you are aware of the costs of achieving your goal.



You must be able to track progress and measure the result of your goal. You can’t always measure exactly the right things, but the clearer you are what success looks like and the more you have measurable stepping-stone signposts of progress, the more likely you are to succeed.  With each step, think WDWBW?  (Who Does What By When?)  Be specific, particularly in detailing next steps required.



We often struggle to flex and change our thinking to new circumstances or new information. Building in “What if” thinking from the start will give you moral licence to flex your path towards your goal, and possibly even the definition of the goal itself, without losing sight of what you are trying to achieve.



The theory behind PLASMA

I am sure that you will have been told that visualising your goals will help you attain them.  Well it turns out that this does work… some of the time, and in some circumstances.  Hm.

I’m sure you’ve also heard that goals absolutely must be SMART.  Unfortunately this is even less likely to produce results.  But hang-on, nobody says these things mightwork.  They go around guaranteeing results if you follow the rules properly.  If it doesn’t work, then we’re rather made to feel that we haven’t done it properly and we must be inferior in some way.  Imposters in a business world of superior beings.

So rather than taking what works for one role model and assuming it will work for everyone, let’s look at what the research tells us.

Professor Shelley Taylor of the University of California conducted research comparing the performance of students who spent a few minutes every day visualising their exam success with those who did not.  The group who spent just a few minutes visualising their goal performed significantly worsethan the control group.  Professor Taylor also captured the number of hours which each student invested in revising for their exams and found that the visualisers put in considerably less hours than their counterparts.

Whether this was due to a false sense of confidence or lack of realism, the result was clear that in this scenario positive visualisation actually had a negative impact on an individual’s chances of achieving a goal.

Professor Gabrielle Autinger of the University of Pennsylvania took this further and concluded that Positive Visualisation of the future produced enhanced results only when accompanied by realism of the barriers faced en route.  A technique coined as Double Think by Professor Richard Wiseman (borrowed of course, from the Orwell book, 1984.)  This conclusion has since been confirmed by numerous other studies.  Simultaneously visualising the positive benefits of success whilst also holding a realistic, almost pessimistic view of how difficult the journey will be, and repeating this every day, appears to give you the best chance of achieving a goal.

Further, “Positive Visualisation” as Autinger calls it, is actually a bit of a misnomer.  It is not enough to “see a goal”, we need to pre-experience what it will feel like. The sun on our back; the zest of the salt air, the smell of the sun cream.  Or the adoration of the crowd; the applause, the spontaneous standing ovation (too much?  May be that’s just me!)  The more vivid this pre-experience is, the more likely the goal is to succeed.

So there you have it.  I can guaranteethis will work.  If it fails then there must be something wrong with you.  Now where’s that snake oil…?!


Click here if you would like to consider a quick framework to consider what your purpose/vision/mission really are