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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jan 21, 2022


In this episode we explore how the language we use can either help or hinder our achievement of goals.



Hello and welcome to episode 121 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. Firstly, welcome to 2022! It’s great to be back with you after a short break. I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well. I’m expectant about what 2022 holds for leaders. We’re making lots of progress when it comes to flexible working. The global pandemic has really forced us all to stop and think about what we’re trying to achieve and the best way to get there. 

How are those New Years’ resolutions going? If you’re like most people the goals you set are probably starting to slip. Given we know so much about goal setting, why is it that we just can’t seem to follow through with our goals? I believe one of the key issues we face is the language we use when setting goals. The way we express our goals has a flow on impact to our motivation and commitment.

Consider the following goal. This year I want to finish work by 5pm each day. That seems, on the surface, to be a pretty well constructed goal. It’s clear, measurable and is probably achievable. The catch is the use of the word “want”. When we say we want to do something, we’re indicating a preference rather than a commitment. If I want to finish work by 5pm, but I have lots of work on, it’s pretty easy to push this preference to one side. And when we’ve done that once, it’s easy to keep letting the goal slip again and again until the goal is long forgotten. 

Compare that with the same goal, but this time using the word “will”. This year I will finish work by 5pm each day. Using the word “will” turns the goal into a commitment and not just a preference. The wording indicates that we have decided to make this change. Imagine sharing that goal with a friend or colleague. The commitment then is clear.

Think about the goals you have set in the past that you’ve struggled to keep. Was the commitment clear in the way you expressed the goal?

It might sound like we’re just playing words here, but expressing your goals as a commitment rather than a preference makes a big difference.

This week, try to express a new goal as a “will” not a “want”. See you next week.


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