I have to admit that I like to make provocative little comments in casual conversations, such as the one which is also the title of this article, just to get people thinking. What does he mean by that? It works! Sometimes it sparks a friendly and enlightening debate. And that is the point.
Sometimes a little debate on something as fundamental as goals and goal setting it is a worthwhile one to have. After all, the efficacy of goals shouldn’t be completely beyond discussion just because it seems to be universally accepted as a doctrinal truth in the church of achievement. I mean, should it? Of course not. Can we not question the usefulness of goals? Of course we can.
Unfortunately, every once in a while, a friendly and enlightening debate doesn’t happen when I make the above provocative statement. Occasionally, I will tell someone that one of the things I write and speak about is my quest to rid our culture of goals and goal setting, and they respond with something like, “So you’re in favor of nobody ever accomplishing anything except maybe by accident?”[Whenever I get that kind of reaction, I know I am not talking to a serious thinker. Yes, I just said that and, yes, I do know how snobby that sounds.]
When I say that I am against goals, it does not mean I am against the concept of targeted achievement and accomplishment in business and in all other areas of life.
In fact, I am against goals precisely because I am so passionately in favor of everybody accomplishing meaningful things with their lives. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us have found that goals fail us. They do not work! Why? Many are the ways in which even high achievers can say that goals are not all they are cracked up to be. Here are a few:
- Goals, in and of themselves, cannot give us a sense of purpose or serve as a reliable indicator as to where we are in the bigger picture of the life we want
- Goals create an artificial ceiling in that we tell ourselves that the goal – the thing we are striving to achieve by a certain date – is good enough when, in fact, we are often capable of achieving even more, even faster
- Goals do not, because they cannot, account for the unknown and the unforeseen
Frustration is a near certainty when we are faced with the reality of any or all of the above. And it is so unnecessary!
So, why are goals great for sports, but lousy for life?
To be continued…