Most of us love setting goals. But our goals rarely love us back.

Partly that's because setting a goal is easy. Getting started--much less sticking with--the steps required to achieve that goal is infinitely harder.

Especially if you don't take your personality into account.

Take fitness and weight loss, a goal common to plenty of people. Setting the goal is easy.

Sticking to the process is hard, so people tend to use different strategies. Some use accountability buddies to try to keep them on track. Others take virtual group classes in order to stay motivated. Others use apps, notifications, and wearables. Some turn exercise and weight loss into a competition.

All are valid strategies.

But according to research published earlier this year in the journal PLOS One, your personality type has a significant impact on how well a particular strategy works for you.

The study broke personality types into three basic groups:

  • Extroverted and motivated.
  • Less social and less active.
  • Less motivated and at-risk.

Interestingly, a competition-based strategy (basically, a leaderboard that logged everyone's activity) was better at boosting physical activity than collaboration or social support for all three groups.

Yep: Regardless of your personality (and apparently how competitive you might think you are), a little competition really is healthy.

But then there's this: If you're extroverted and motivated at the start, competition brings out the best in you--but only until the competition ends. Once it's over, you're over it, too.

If you're less social and less active, you perform best with a program that includes competition, collaboration, and support. And are more likely to stick with it, even after a competition ends.

(In case you're wondering, no combination of strategies worked for unmotivated, at-risk participants. Which also makes sense; if you're just not into it, no combination of tools, incentives, social support, and competition is likely to work. You have to want it, at least a little.)

According to the researchers:

Personality traits have been both positively and negatively associated with many health behaviors including exercise, but aren't typically considered when designing wellness programs and health behavior interventions.

In our study, we included personality as a key component of distinguishing different behavioral phenotypes and found that these phenotypes responded very differently to a physical activity program. [My italics]

The last sentence is key: Different phenotypes (personalities) responded very differently--a fact that is often forgotten where fitness and weight loss goals are concerned. And more importantly, where most goals are concerned.

Take email. Say your goal is to make 10 cold calls a day. If you're extraverted and motivated, find a way to make it a competition, whether inside your business or outside. (You can always challenge someone else to set a goal of their own, and then track each other's progress.)

But keep in mind that once the competition is over, your motivation may quickly fade. So start a new competition, either with the same goal or with another goal you're motivated to achieve.

If you're less motivated and less outgoing, find a way to make the goal a competition--but also layer in some collaboration and social support. Check in with your "competition" to see how they're feeling. Find ways to collaborate and help each other. Compete, but add some friendly elements to the competition.

And if you're totally unmotivated to achieve a goal, don't force it. Find a goal you do care about.

The key is to always consider your personality first. Not, like most people, the strategies and tools: Like the hottest new trend. Or the latest productivity fad. Or a cool new app.

If you're extraverted and motivated, a tool that creates a community to foster social support may help a little. But not as much as a strategy that allows you to compete. (If only with yourself.)

Think about who you are. Then determine the best strategy and tools.

Because the best strategy is the strategy that works, for you.