How Having Goals Makes Us Happier and Healthier

How Having Goals Makes Us Happier and Healthier

Table of Contents

Employee health and happiness has always been a corporate concern, in large part because of its effect on overall productivity, and having goals, we’ve learned, is a key influencer In recent years, we’ve seen the subject of wellness rise meteorically, from the files of the benefits department straight to the top of the list for the C-suite.

What’s more, the definition of wellness itself has expanded to include not just job safety and general physical health, but mental health, psychological safety, and financial well-being, too.

The crisis of the pandemic only accelerated a conversation that’s been long overdue. Here’s why.

About personal & professional health and happiness: well-being edition

Personal well-being affects every aspect of work performance. It forms the foundation for good decision-making, strong engagement, productivity, and clear communication. It supports our ability to regulate our emotions, think creatively, and solve problems. 

On the flip side, those lacking in personal well-being experience:

  • a diminished ability to be resilient
  • low stamina in the face of stress
  • reduced adaptability and empathy
  • poor working memory
  • difficulty completing tasks

When any element of our health suffers, everything starts to slide. Deadlines go unmet, we check out emotionally, absenteeism rises, impulse control goes out the window, and our energy lags.

You know this. And your people  know it too. Because many of them have experienced it firsthand. In fact, 76% of employees report experiencing at least one symptom of poor mental health within the last year alone — that’s 3 in every 4 working adults.

And now more than ever, perhaps due to pandemic life, many are taking their personal happiness and well-being much, much more seriously. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

  • 38 million U.S. workers chose to leave their jobs in 2021. Many of those resigned because the pandemic caused them to reevaluate their priorities.
  • 50% of U.S. workers have left a job at least in part for mental health reasons (i’ts a whopping 81% for Gen Z and 68% for Millennials).
  • 85% of employees agree that their workplace has a direct effect on their mental health, naming factors like emotionally-draining work, poor work-life balance, and lack of recognition and appreciation, most often.
  • 91% of surveyed workers believe that company culture must support mental health.

People expect more from employers with health and well-being at the top 

Modern employees expect their employer to help support their personal well-being. When they don’t feel supported, many will start looking for workplaces where they do.

So here’s the takeaway for talent leaders in this tight labor market: prioritizing employee well-being isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing to do.

And fortunately, one of the key interventions for supporting employee mental health may be in your arsenal already — goal setting.

Companies that see well-being not as an optional employee add-on benefit but as a business necessity are much more likely to accomplish superior financial results, satisfy customers and deal effectively with change. Josh Bersin 2021 Wellbeing Market and Trends

Goal setting is a surprising mental-health powerhouse as modern medicine and psychology have advanced, it’s become clear that good mental health is achieved in part by having good problems, by feeling empowered to solve them, and by being aware of the progress we make.

It’s true — the human brain is hard-wired for setting goals. And in a workplace context, when people have goals that challenge them to achieve something aligned with their values, they report being happier and healthier. 

Let’s dive a little deeper. What exactly does goal setting do for our mental health? 

The payoff: 4 mental health benefits of good goal setting

Here’s what the process of setting goals has to offer: 

Goals boost confidence and highlight skills

When a person takes hold of a challenge and sees it through to the end, they learn to trust their abilities. That experience builds a foundation from which innovation, risk-taking, and increasing responsibility naturally spring. Goals allow people to see their strengths more accurately.

Goals support ownership

When a person sets a goal, the work becomes theirs. They experience a sense of control and agency. That leads to increased resolve, engagement, and ultimately satisfaction. 

Goal setting builds momentum

With each success, we want more of it. Goals tend to lead to more (and higher) goals. 

Establishing goals offers a chance to define personal values and priorities

When someone sets goals, they determine where their time, energy, and talents are going. It allows a person to think soberly for a moment about what it is that they want to give themselves to – in the next quarter, the next year, the next five years. Having goals ultimately helps people live with more meaning, deeper values, and less time that feels wasted.

So see, the value of our goals isn’t just in what they lead us to do; they also make us who we are. 

And when people work in positive, values-aligned organizations where they’re encouraged to set and reach goals, they find meaning, direction, and yes — even real happiness. 

Start setting goals with WorkTango

We hope this article helped you understand the link between goal setting and personal well-being. And if you like what you read, let’s talk.


Learn more