Setting goals at 50plus

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

“Goal setting involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal.”


When you reach 50plus you suddenly realise what a precious resource time actually is. You have reached the point in life where there is more behind you than in front of you.


The question that some may ask is, do we still need to set goals once we pass the big 5-0 or can we just let the currents of life to take us where they want?


For me the simple answer to this question is yes, we do need to set goals.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Researcher Edwin Locke found that individuals who set specific, difficult goals performed better than those who set general, easy goals. He went on to say that goal setting involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal. Goal setting can be guided by goal-setting criteria (or rules) such as SMART criteria.

Locke’s theory is that the simplest most direct motivational explanation of why some people perform better than others is because they have different performance goals. The essence of the theory is fourfold.


  • First, difficult specific goals lead to significantly higher performance than easy goals, no goals, or even the setting of an abstract goal such as urging people to do their best.


  • Second, holding ability constant, as this is a theory of motivation, and given that there is goal commitment, the higher the goal the higher the performance.


  • Third, variables such as praise, feedback, or the involvement of people in decision-making only influence behaviour to the extent that it leads to the setting of and commitment to a specific difficult goal.


  • Fourth, goal-setting, in addition to affecting the three mechanisms of motivation, namely, choice, effort, and persistence, can also have a cognitive benefit. It can influence choice, effort, and persistence to discover ways to attain the goal.

All of these are very true and from a very early age, we start setting goals “Daddy I want to be an astronaut, mummy I want to be a nurse”, these are more aspiration than true goals as they are not overly defined, or indeed understood and more importantly may not be achievable.


As we develop in life through experience, education and other influences we are able to make more informed decisions, to set ourselves more achievable goals and indeed to understand what those goals should be and what they could mean to us as individuals or indeed as a group.


Why are goals important, in my experience, it is simply a case of human nature to wish to achieve something and to gain recognition either for yourself or from others in doing this. Thus, creating a sense of satisfaction, well-being and achievement. This kind of positivity can surely only benefit each person.


One of my favourite insights into goal setting is in this clip:


US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven, delivers this speech about the importance of doing the little things, like making your bed, embracing the fears of life, and changing the world for generations to come. However, the fact that this simple daily goal is measurable, achievable and can actually bring a sense of self-satisfaction and well-being says it all.


For me setting a goal is not about trying to achieve the impossible it is more about finding things that you want to achieve, understanding what those are and how you might go about them. Try to be specific and if it’s possible, make them measurable. You can have multiple goals, daily goals or even just one major goal or any combination thereof, but in setting them and accomplishing them you will find a more constant sense of achievement and indeed well-being.

Photo by: Анна Рыжкова on Pexels

Just because you are 50plus doesn’t mean you have to stop setting goals. You may well feel that you have reached a number of these already whether they are personal, family, financial or career goals. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for new goals. It may be the opposite in that you feel that at 50plus you haven’t really achieved what you wanted in life. If that’s the case then setting goals is even more important than ever before.


At 50plus we all have a wealth of experience, knowledge and a much better understanding of ourselves than we did at say twenty or even thirty or forty years old. We understand more fully what makes us “tick”. So, this is also even more reason to set yourselves goals.


Make them as significant or small as you want but set them. They should be specific, measurable and achievable in order for each one of you to be able to achieve a real sense of accomplishment once you have completed them.


In 2013 I set myself a physical challenge goal. I was lucky enough to have been competing for a few years previously at a high level in triathlon and had represented Great Britain at my age group on more than one occasion. However, I wanted to do something related that would really challenge me not only physically but mentally also.

Photo by Jorge Romero on Unsplash


So, I entered an Iron Man. For those who don’t follow triathlon, this is a 3.8km swim, followed by a 181km bike ride and then a Marathon to finish, all in one day. I worked closely with a good friend to set goals/targets around each discipline to hopefully ensure I could finish. Most importantly I created an acronym for myself to repeat on the day & had it taped to my bike. It simply read “Complete”, it stood for Contain Output, Maintain Pace, Love Event, Take (it) Easy. I was able to finish the Iron Man in a time that surprised me and to this day have a huge sense of accomplishment whenever I think about it.

Photo by paolo candelo on Unsplash


Now I’m not suggesting that everyone should seek a physical challenge as a goal, it could be an educational one, such as learning a language or travel to a country not visited before, or a health-related one as simple as drinking two litres of water a day. It’s entirely up to each person to set their goals or goal.


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash


Goals are part of every aspect of business/life and provide a sense of direction, motivation, a clear focus, and clarify importance. By setting goals for yourself, you are providing yourself with a target to aim for. I’m a great believer in setting “SMART” goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Therefore, a SMART goal should incorporate all of these criteria to help focus your efforts and increase the chances of achieving that goal.


So, put simply if you are going to achieve change (maybe not changing the world), then set yourself goals.


Start tomorrow by getting up and making your bed!!


Author: Giles Simmons : Talent Acquisition Consultant.

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