My Response to: “Goal Setting Doesn’t Work.”
Sarah Robbins of Blue Blaze Financial Advisors, walking in Bryce Canyon National Park
A recent article by Darren Hardy, the creator of the magazine, SUCCESS, shows his smiling picture beside an article where he makes the bold claim that “Goal setting doesn’t work”. As a huge believer in goal setting, I was taken back by the headline but went in with an open-mind. “Maybe this guy has a point I haven’t considered,” I thought.
I read the article. Twice. What a -- how can I say this politely -- what a flaming trash heap.
I was actually angered when I finished reading it the second time. Not because I disagreed with his overall conclusion, that our lives are OUR responsibility and that our ability to reach goals is either enabled or sabotaged by our own actions...or, our apathy. He and I are in complete agreement on that point.
What angered me was the headline, “Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work,” because it’s, I think, irresponsibly inflammatory (and wrong) for many reasons, chief among them the fact that a solid percentage of people will, rather than read the whole article, only read the headline. As Maria Konnikova writes in, How Headlines Change the Way We Think, for The New Yorker, December 2014,“By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.”
And it might be the reader’s own fault for believing such a generalization and acting on it (or more appropriately, NOT acting) in important areas of their lives. BUT – instead of showing people the power they have in their own lives, the writer intentionally plants the idea in the reader’s mind that goal setting is ineffective, useless.
The article itself had some good points – concepts like “the change starts with you” and “your life is your own doing”. I can get on board with that! You have to go out and work for it – nothing comes for free and hard work is a virtue.
But nowhere does the article really lay out why taking thoughtful, contemplative time from your days to consider what is really important to YOU, and then taking the action step of writing down a strategy to get there (and tips for how) is a bad thing. His commentary relies on shock and provocation and provides no real guidance.
This irks me.
And maybe the reason for that is because goal setting IS a GOOD thing.
So here’s my opinion, based on my own experience and that of some of the people I’ve worked with: too many people are following this guy’s advice! They think goal setting is worthless and so they don’t do it.
These people walk around like zombies. They waste valuable time that could be spent thinking about what’s truly of value to them and taking actions that help them fulfill their life’s ultimate contentments. Then they wake up at age 47 and realize they are in fact somewhere…but that somewhere isn’t where they want to be and so they settle. And then they wake up at 61 and realize that time has gone faster than they expected and the next 10 years won’t be how they wanted. And so they settle.
They just “deal with it”.
You have the power to control the levers that bring life’s ultimate fulfillments. But instead of just expecting that to happen, you must go through the very important (and personal) process of defining goals, the obstacles to achieving them, and the best path forward to reaching them. Any other method is just guessing. I don’t want to guess about the important things in my “one shot”. This is why one of my early blogs for Blue Blaze directly addresses goal setting, and why I’m going to keep coming back to why this is an essential part of blazing your own trail during your own, very personal, life’s journey.
The experiences and relationships that have brought the most happiness and fulfillment to my life came through thoughtful contemplation. I gave myself permission to articulate my goals and desires and take the time I needed to recruit counselors, mentors and advisors to help me plan how I would go out and do it. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know another way.
If you’re think goal setting is a waste of time, because you’ve tried and it didn’t work, or because you’d rather go with the flow of life, I challenge you to spend one morning thinking about what you really want in life. Then ask yourself how it’s going to come to you, automagically or with your own concerted effort? If it’s a dream that you really want to grab hold of, it’s worth laying out a plan to get there. And it’s worth finding a mentor or advisor to help you get there.
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