Set positive goals to avoid burnout

Striving for something that's enjoyable acts as a buffer against stress

There’s good news for those who love to-do lists – setting positive goals increases our occupational wellbeing too.

A report, Development of an extended goal-striving reasons framework, from Oxford Brookes University Business School, revealed that individuals who pursue their goals because they enjoy doing them, or believe they are helping others, tend to report higher levels of happiness and engagement.

The survey of more than 200 employees in the voluntary sector found positively striving for something acts as a buffer, reducing the negative effects of high work intensity, which can lead to burnout. Dr Christian Ehrlich, senior lecturer in organisational behaviour and one of the researchers behind the findings, said it was primarily the reasons behind goal-setting which make it so effective at warding off stress.

He said: “Pursuing goals for positive outcomes rather than to avoid negative outcomes reduces the level of burnout associated with the ever-increasing intensity of work.”

Dr Ehrlich added: “It is surprising to some that hard work can actually be accompanied by positive emotions. People aren’t afraid of hard work, and get enjoyment from it, which subsequently can reduce levels of burnout.”