The Problem With Goals

If you know me you know that I am big believer in setting annual goals and checking in every quarter. I’ve set formal goals in one way or another since 2016 and have refined my system every year since. However today I want to challenge my own thoughts on goal-setting so here are 3 problems with setting goals. Heads up I got these ideas from James Clear’s Atomic Habits but I wholeheartedly agree with all of them. So here we go:

  • Problem #1: Setting goals doesn’t differentiate winners from losers meaning both winners and losers have the same goals namely to win. The problem with this is that in and of itself goals are not enough to help you win. The real edge can only be obtained once you look beyond setting goals.
  • Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only momentary success. What happens once you hit your goals? What is left to push you forward? You have nothing to look forward to and in my own experience you can fall of track of your original goal if you don’t have a solid vision of where you want to go. This means that goal setting is at odds with your long-term success.
  • Problem #3: Setting goals can restrict your happiness. In my case I felt this voice in my head nudging me to think that “once I reach my goal, then I will be happy”. I didn’t always verbalize it but it was definitely the mindset that I had.

The solution that I’ve found to work best to address these different issues is to focus on building a system that will progressively help you accomplish your goals. I’ve written about the Kaizen philosophy before and building a system is falls within this idea of making continuous improvement over extended periods of time.

I think that the best way to make the distinction between setting goals and building a system is this:

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building a system is to continue playing the game.

I am currently working on figuring out my own system and will probably write more about it in the upcoming weeks.