Don’t Bother Setting Goals

Don’t bother setting goals. It’s a waste of time. Let me explain why I feel this way about goals and then offer a better alternative.

See if this scenario sounds familiar. You decide to work towards some new level of accomplishment. So you set a goal for yourself. Actually, you probably set a few goals. The first goal you set is for the end result. Your goal might be to reach a certain level of sales, or to drop X pounds, or to build a sales team of a certain size. You get the idea…

Next, you set an activity goal. No… more like 2 or even 3 activity goals. Because you know what it will take to succeed and you’re “committed” to your success. So you have one or more daily activity goals, maybe a weekly activity goal, and perhaps even a monthly activity goal.

But after a month passes, not much has changed. Things started out pretty strong, but then… well… you know… life got in the way. Things just seemed to spring up, derailing your plan.

So then you decide to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Specific. Logically, these make sense. What more could you ask for from a goal? But of course, they don’t work for us. After all, our original goals weren’t THAT different from a set of SMART goals.

And then there’s the strategy of creating a prioritized list to keep us focused and on track. How perfect is that? Make a list of all the things that have to get done and then decide which ones have highest priority, which ones come next, and so on and so forth. The only problem is that half our time is spent re-prioritizing our list and the other half is spent justifying why a lower priority task should be done first. Besides, “stuff” always gets in the way – interruptions and distractions.

So although setting goals seems like it should work, it doesn’t. This brings us to the question of why goal setting doesn’t work. Why is it that when a sales agent creates a marketing plan for the coming year, the result is that nothing really changes? Why is it that so many people set “New Year’s Resolutions” only to fall back into old habits?

The reason is that although most people basically know what to “do”, they either 1) lack the motivation to do what needs to be done or 2) they wrestle with “conflicting intentions and beliefs”. Only by being sufficiently self motivated and by being free of internal conflict can goals be achieved. Most people “put the cart before the horse” by setting goals before they’re truly committed to making a change.

Self motivation is powerful but often elusive. The challenge with becoming motivated is moving from the “logical” to the “emotional”. For example, logically it makes sense to lose weight and get fit, but the reason most folks struggle with their weight and their fitness is that they’re not emotionally motivated for self improvement.

Someone who’s emotionally self motivated won’t let distractions and interruptions knock them off course. When we’re self motivated, we’re driven to achieve our goals. We’re enthusiastic about them. Putting in action to achieve goals we’re motivated to achieve energizes us. In contrast, putting in activity to work on something we’re not motivated to do is draining. (Hence we tend to avoid doing it.)

Then we come to the issue of “conflicting intentions”. The concept of “conflicting intentions and beliefs” is important to understand. This is one of the main reasons – if not THE main reason – that people don’t succeed in reaching their goals. Let me explain more about this concept. A person has a conflicting intention when they say or want one thing, but in their head or their heart, they want or believe something else. For example, they might declare that their goal is to make $250,000, but secretly they don’t really believe they could ever make that amount of money. Or they believe they’re not “worthy” of making that kind of money. Or they believe that the effort to have the level of success would overwhelm them. Or they believe that people who make a lot of money are superficial and materialistic.

The consequence of harboring conflicting intentions is that every action, every activity, and every effort is “energetically” counteracted. In other words, the positive gains from one’s efforts are canceled out by the conflicting or negative energy, resulting in an outcome that is “OK”, but not nearly what it could or should have been. This principle affects everything in our life – money, relationships, success, you name it…

The bottom line is that setting goals and working towards them often will be a frustrating exercise until one is truly motivated for self improvement and has cleared out any major conflicting intentions and beliefs. When you’re self motivated and not in conflict, you’ll reach your goals faster and easier than you ever thought possible.