The Gender Gap and Goal-Setting: A Research Study

Executive Summary

For years, men and women have been setting goals the same way. And the failure rates for both have been staggering (for example, the overwhelming majority of New Year’s Resolutions get abandoned within 90 days).

It’s not a question of equality between men and women(our goals can be the same), but rather differences in how we approach and carry out our goals. And now, after studying 4,690 men and women, Leadership IQ has identified 4 critical differences in how the sexes set their goals.

·  Finding #1: Women care about their goals more than men.
Because women are more emotionally connected to their goals than men, they’re more
likely to stick to their goals when the going gets tough.

·  Finding #2: Men visualize their goals better than women.
Like the visualization used by elite athletes, men more clearly picture their goals than
women. This gives them greater direction and focus.

·  Finding #3: Women are more likely to procrastinate than men.
While this finding is sure to be controversial, women feel less urgency to achieve their goals than men. And that means procrastination, and potentially goal failure.

·  Finding #4: Women set tougher goals than men.
While this may inflame debates about who’s the tougher sex, women are more likely to
leave their comfort zones and set challenging (and even scary) goals. This leads to both greater achievement and fulfillment.

Based on these findings, here are a few to-do’s for both women and men who want to achieve bigger and better goals.

To-Dos for Women

  • Women need to spend more time visualizing and picturing their goals. This could mean pictures, drawings, vision boards, etc., but whatever the form, women need to tap into the focus and direction that men get from more clearly picturing their
  • Women need to attach a greater sense of urgency to their goals, otherwise procrastination could lead to abandoning the goal entirely. This can be done through setting more urgent deadlines, giving themselves immediate rewards, limiting choices, and
  • Women need to accomplish at least one thing every day that pushes them closer to their goals. By asking “What must I have accomplished today in order to keep on track to achieving my goals,” women can achieve both higher levels of focus and urgency.

To-Dos for Men

  • Men need to develop more emotional attachment to their goals. Pursuing a goal without a deep emotional commitment virtually guarantees that when tough times hit, commitment will waver. Whether the commitment is intrinsic, extrinsic or personal, men need to be able to answer the question “why do I really care about achieving this goal?”
  • Men need to set more difficult goals. Men need to increase the difficulty of their goals by asking themselves questions like ‘what will I have to learn to achieve this goal?’ ‘How will I grow as a person as a result of this goal?’ ‘What new skills will I have acquired by virtue of pursuing this?’ If men find that their goals aren’t stretching their minds (and helping them leave their comfort zone), they should try increasing the difficulty of their goals by 20%.
  • Men need to generate more social accountability for their goals. This doesn’t mean that men have to tweet or facebook every aspect of their goals, but it does mean that men should identify somebody in their life who will engage them every day and help them stay on track towards their goals. This helps keep men emotionally connected to their goals and ensures they keep their goals appropriately

 

Study Background 

Survey Process

During September-October, 2010, Leadership IQ surveyed 4,690 individuals about their goals (2,506 women and 2,184 men responded). Study participants came from a range of countries with the majority coming from the United States and  Canada.

Geographic participation is as follows…

Respondents were asked to rate themselves on Leadership IQ’s Goal- Setting Survey, a 26-item questionnaire. Items were either rated on a 7- point scale ranging from Never to Always or were   open-ended.

Respondents completed questions about their individual goals (personal and professional), their organization’s goal-setting process, personal effectiveness, overall life fulfillment and overall organizational performance.

The surveys were delivered to Leadership IQ subscribers, with 94% of respondents submitting their responses electronically, 5% via paper and 1% over the phone. Leadership IQ statisticians reviewed the data for accuracy and consistency and analyzed the valid   submissions.

As you read through the results on the pages that follow, please note that whenever a survey assesses a sample rather than the whole population, there is going to be sampling error. This margin of error expresses the amount of random sampling error in a survey's results, and the smaller the margin of error, the more faith one can have that the survey's reported results are close to the "true" figures; that is, the figures for the whole population.  For this study, the margin of error for the Goal-Setting Survey   is ±0.03 on the seven-point scale.  In layman’s terms, this means that we   can have a high degree of confidence that the population’s survey   responses would be within three hundredths of a point of the scores you  see throughout the  report.

 

Survey Questions

The following are examples of questions from the survey:

  • When I think about this goal, I feel really strong
  • I mentally own this goal; it doesn’t belong to my boss, spouse, doctor, or anybody other than me…
  • My goal is so vividly pictured in my mind that I can tell you exactly what I will be seeing, hearing, and feeling at the precise moment my goal is attained.
  • My goal is so vividly described in written form (including with (pictures, photos, drawings, etc.) that I could literally show it to other people and they would know exactly what I’m trying to
  • I feel such an intense sense of urgency to attain my goal that postponing or pausing even one day is not an
  • I'm really going to have to learn new skills before I'll be able to accomplish this
  • My goal is pushing me outside my comfort zone; I'm not frozen with terror, but I'm definitely on "pins and needles"…
  • I have accomplished more in my life than my
  • In my life, I fully utilize every ounce of my
  • The rest of my life will be

 

Survey Construct

In researching goal-setting methodologies for the book HARD Goals, Leadership IQ discovered that for a goal to have a high likelihood of success, it has to pass 4 tests (failing even one of these tests significantly predicts goal failure).     For a goal to succeed, it has to be:

  • Heartfelt: Develop deep-seated and heartfelt attachments to your goals on levels that are intrinsic, personal and And use these connections to naturally increase the motivational power you put behind making your goals happen.
  • Animated: Create goals that are so vividly alive in your mind that to not reach them would leave you Use visualization and imagery techniques to sear your goal firmly into your   brain.
  • Required: Give procrastination (which kills far too many goals) the Convince yourself and others of the absolute necessity of your goals and make the future payoffs of your goals appear far more satisfying than what you can get   today.
  • Difficult: Construct goals that are optimally challenging to tap into your own personal sweet spot of Access past experiences and use them to recreate similar extraordinary performance. Identify your goal setting comfort zone and push past it for great results.

This 4-part construct (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult) was used throughout this study.

 

Finding #1: Women care about their goals more than men

The Results

Among the Heartfelt questions we asked, people were asked to rate the question “When I think about this goal, I feel really strong emotions.” On this question, women’s scores were significantly higher than men’s.

 

Why This Matters

Having a Heartfelt connection to your goals (feeling strong emotions,   taking mental ownership of the goal, etc.) is strongly associated with goal success.  People with strong Heartfelt connections are anywhere from 1.3  to 1.8 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people with weak connections. (Likelihood of goal success is measured by the survey question “What do you think is the probability that you will successfully achieve this  goal?”).

Next Steps

While it can seem like a caricature that women ‘feel’ more than men, the fact is, having a deep heartfelt attachment to a goal can take you from: “I probably should pursue this goal” to: “I want to achieve this goal more   than anything, and nothing will stop  me.”

Fortunately, both men and women can increase their heartfelt connection to their goals by using one, or more, of three motivational    drivers:

  • Intrinsic: Develop a heartfelt connection to the goal  
  • Personal: Develop a heartfelt connection to the person you’re doing a goal
  • Extrinsic: Develop a heartfelt connection to the   

None of these motivators are wrong or right, as long as you plug in and make them work for you. So before you start thinking about all the things you’re going to have to do to bring about your goal, take some time to answer the question: “Why do you care about this goal?”  Is it something  you just love to do, or are you doing it for someone else, for something bigger than yourself?  Or are you really just after the payoff? Whatever   your answer, if you can build a heartfelt connection to your goal, own that goal and integrate it into your life, you’re on your way to extraordinary achievement. And for men especially, this is an issue on which to expend some extra effort.

 

Finding #2: Men visualize their goals better than women

The Results

Among the Animated questions we asked, people were asked to rate the question “My goal is so vividly described in written form (including with (pictures, photos, drawings, etc.) that I could literally show it to other people and they would know exactly what I’m trying to achieve.” On this question, men’s scores were significantly higher than   women’s.

Why This Matters

Being able to Animate your goals (vividly describe in written form, vividly picture in your mind, etc.) is strongly associated with goal success. People who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to

1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people with weak connections. (Likelihood of goal success is measured by the survey question “What do you think is the probability that you will successfully achieve this  goal?”).

Next Steps

It seems like a tired cliché to say that men are more visual beings. But at least as far as goals are concerned, there seems to be some truth there. However, with some extra focus, women can quickly narrow the gap.

Using visualization and imagery techniques, both sexes can create goals  that are so vividly alive in your mind that to not reach them would leave    you wanting.  There are lots of ways to animate a goal—to help you  imagine, envision and picture what you ultimately want to create and how you’ll get there. You can use actual pictures, drawings, visualization, mnemonics, and even language filled with imagery. And just like a great novel, the more specifics you factor in (for example, setting, perspective, color, lighting), the more indelibly your goal will be seared into your brain (and the more likely you will be to succeed).

 

Finding #3:  Women are more likely to procrastinate than men

The Results

Among the Required questions we asked, people were asked to rate the question “I feel such an intense sense of urgency to attain my goal that postponing or pausing even one day is not an option.” On this question, men’s scores were significantly higher than  women’s.

Why This Matters

Feeling that your goals are Required (feeling an intense sense of urgency, getting benefits right now even while pursuit of the goal is still ‘in process,’ etc.) is strongly associated with goal success.  People who feel a strong    sense of urgency to achieve their goals are anywhere from 1.3 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t   feel that urgency. (Likelihood of goal success is measured by the survey question “What do you think is the probability that you will successfully achieve this goal?”).

Next Steps

While this may be a more intuitive strength for men, putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today is a situation that keeps a lot of people, both men and women, from achieving their   goals.

Procrastination is the number one killer of truly significant goals. But that doesn’t mean your goals have to be its next victim. There are some tricks   you can use to alter how you view and value your future payoffs so they become more attractive than what the status quo is offering today. Like intentionally moving some of the immediate costs of your goal into the  future in order to sync up the costs and benefits. Or, conversely, bringing some of your goal’s future benefits into the present. Both will make your  goal look a whole lot more attractive and amp up your urgency to get going on it now.

The most efficient way to rally the inner strength needed to start and stick  to a goal is to infuse the goal with a feeling of urgency. To make that goal feel so required and so urgent that you have to start right here, right now.

 

Finding #4:  Women set tougher goals than men

The Results

Among the Difficult questions we asked, people rated the question “My    goal is pushing me outside my comfort zone; I'm not frozen with terror, but I'm definitely on 'pins and needles' and wide-awake for this goal.” On this question, women’s scores were significantly higher than men’s.

Why This Matters

Difficult goals (that push people outside of their comfort zone, that require learning new skills, etc.) are strongly associated with goal success. People who feel a strong sense of urgency to achieve their goals are anywhere from 1.1 to 1.2 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t feel that urgency.  Perhaps more importantly, people with highly difficult goals have 17% higher scores on the question “The rest of my life will be extraordinary.”

Next Steps

Discovering that women set more difficult goals than men brings to mind that old quote, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high  heels.”

But embracing and tackling tough challenges doesn’t have to be a war of the sexes. We all have the natural ability to achieve remarkably difficult goals. We just need to shake up our brains, so they look at the difficult challenge in front of them and register the message: “I’m a high performer and I can achieve big  goals.”

A  critical question facing any goal-setter, but men in particular, is how hard is hard enough?  You don’t want things to be so difficult that you give up any more than you want to feel so unchallenged that you stop trying.

You’ve done great things in your life already, so you can access those past experiences and use them to create similar extraordinary performances.   And one big key is learning, because if your goals aren’t demanding you to learn new skills, it’s a clear indication you aren’t at your sweet spot of goal difficulty, the place that makes you the most motivationally charged.

 

 

Conclusion:  Women and men set goals very differently

For years, men and women have been setting goals the same way. And the failure rates for both have been staggering (for example, the overwhelming majority of New Year’s Resolutions get abandoned within 90 days).

It’s not a question of equality between men and women(our goals can be the same), but rather differences in how we approach and carry out our goals. These differences can profoundly influence goal success, with the failure to recognize these differences often being the cause of frustration, tension and failure.

We can use the information obtained in this study to adjust our goal  setting appropriately. For instance, women should pay extra attention to visualizing their goals and imbuing them with a greater sense of urgency. Men, by contrast, ought to increase their emotional connections to their goals, and make those goals more difficult.

Posted by Mark Murphy on 27 December, 2016 Goal Setting, Research | 0 comments
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