Thinking of my present situation and the direction in life I want to move towards has caused me to reflect on my goals and the entire goal setting process. Today, I will not share anything new about how to set goals, but I will try and show that all of the goal setting books and programs really teach the same information. In my consideration I would like to use an analogy. In this analogy my intent is not to offend any particular religion but to draw on a related idea between the many churches of the world and many different opinions on goal setting.
Just as many people can read a scripture and interpret it differently, we find many different approaches to setting or not setting goals. You will find differences between churches based on the beliefs of the pastor, minister or leaders just as you will find differences in how to accomplish and set goals by different authors based on which part of the process was most impactful to them individually.
You will find both those that believe in God and those that don’t, just as you have those that set goals and those that don’t. You will find those that state they believe in God but then do not work to keep his commandments and you find a majority of the population that will set a goal but not follow through to complete it. The famous New Year’s resolution is a great example. I am not sure theses minor comparisons make any sense to you but hopefully I can show you some things today that will make sense regarding how goals can be used in your life.
First, to have goals or not to have goals? The authors of a Harvard Business School working paper, Goals Gone Wild, reviewed a number of research studies related to goals and concluded that the upside of goal setting has been exaggerated and the downside, the “systematic harm caused by goal setting,” has been disregarded. They identified clear side effects associated with goal setting, including “a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation.” Man I am glad I did not set any goals, they could really be a problem.
On the other hand. In 1979, interviewers asked new graduates from the Harvard’s MBA Program and found that :
• 84% had no specific goals at all
• 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
• 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them
In 1989, the interviewers again interviewed the graduates of that class. You can guess the results:
• The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.
• Even more staggering – the three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.
Earning more money is not the only reason to set goals but if you correlate the impact of clearly defined, written goals you will see that in any area of life you will be more successful.
Now that I have shown you a reason why goals are important I want to discuss the process of goal setting. Should your goals be large or small, should they be realistic, is there a difference between our types of goals and success or motivation to achieve them? Let’s start with a simple one, does size matter?
Grant Cardone has been one of the most outspoken successful people on writing massive goals. In his book The 10X Rule, he talks about the importance of massive goals that require massive action. In Grant’s opinion, small goals do not inspire people to take the necessary actions they will need to take in order to achieve life changing status. In his own words Grant says, “I suggest that you become obsessed about the things you want; otherwise, you are going to spend a lifetime being obsessed with making up excuses as to why you didn’t get the life you wanted.” “Average is a failing plan!” “Average doesn’t work in any area of life. Anything that you give only average amounts of attention to will start to subside and will eventually cease to exist.” So go big or go home right?
Well in The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor states that goals should be small and you should have many different small realistic goals if you want to find success. “The concept of the Zorro Circle is a powerful metaphor for how we can achieve our most ambitious goals in our jobs, our careers, and our personal lives. One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behavior matters; that we have control over our future. Yet when our stresses and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once. If, however, we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feeling of control so crucial to performance. By first limiting the scope of our efforts, then watching those efforts have the intended effect, we accumulate the resources, knowledge, and confidence to expand the circle, gradually conquering a larger and larger area. Don Diego didn’t teach young Alejandro how to be a swashbuckling swordsman overnight. Zorro started small, then little by little mastered his ever-widening circle. His legendary success followed from there..”
So is it large goals or small goals? What if I said they two books actually said the same thing? From studying this topic over the last four months I have come to understand that what these multiple authors state that so many misinterpret is that you have to have all of these components if you want to succeed. You must have large enough goals to motivate and inspire you but then focus on the smaller daily goals (action steps) that lead you to your overall success. Realistic goals are those that we do every day to achieve unrealistic results in our life. If we can set massive goals that motivate us to move forward even when we do not know how it can possibly occur followed by taking action on the small goals we now understand and know the creative process opens up and we find our path to success that we could not see before. Warning, the path will not be shown until you set out to achieve and take action not knowing before had what you should do.
One last thing for today. Vishen Lakhiani in his book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, talks about the difference between means goals and end goals. This misunderstood concept has led to the failure of so many because they were seeking means goals and not end goals. If you thing about large goals versus daily goals you can understand part of this but it is deeper. If you have a goal to make one million dollars the is a means goal. To find your end goal you need to ask yourself why? Vishen explains that means goals have a why or because in them. I want to have a great career because…I want to marry a beautiful spouse so…I want an education in order to…I want to be wealthy so. You get the picture. Test you most recent goals and ask why you want to achieve them. If you find they are means goals then you can understand why even reaching these goals will not bring true happiness. Only end goals can bring joy in the pursuit, we should never put off our happiness until we reach a goal. “I will be happy when,” is one of the most dangerous thought patterns in modern society. You can be happy now and still move towards massive goals in life if you focus on end goals.
End goals fall into three categories experiences, growth and contributions. In Experiences we want to have goals for Love, Friendship, Adventure and Environment. For growth we set goals in Health & Fitness, Intellectual Life, Skills and Spiritual Life. Contribution goals fall into categories like Career, Creative Life, Family Life and Community Life. An example of an end goal is to be an inspiration to others or be a great father. The means goals then have a purpose when you focus with the end in mind. If my overall top three goals are to be a great husband, father and help others find happiness in life then when I set means goals like making money, getting out of debt, taking vacations, buying something nice or spending time on a mission, these means goals help me move towards my end purpose. When we are moving towards an end goal we can be happy now. If we only have means goals we will not be happy until we achieve and then we set a new goal that we will not be happy without.
I really want to talk more about this subject but I hope you can see that what we set our goals on is what really matters. Large goals, small goals or no goals is really up to you. What do you want and what will bring you true peace and happiness should be the focus. Move forward today with positive persistent actions with the purpose of reaching your end goals and enjoy the journey.