There’s been a lot of hating on goals recently. Many people question the value of goal-setting. Many believe goals don’t work at all. Some even believe that if you define a goal, you define your own limitation.
It’s not goals that are the issue. It’s the way we view the process. Goals can give us purpose and direction. If we, however, believe that process is rigid and set in stone, we won’t always get the best outcome. We let the outcome consume and define us and that interrupts our ability to live in the present.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients on goals and the goal-setting process. Making goals is easy. It’s meeting them that requires a bit of work. I’ve seen misconceptions about the process rob people of happiness and success. Here are a few common misconceptions about the process. Have you fallen for any of these?
“I have to know where I want to be in 5 years before I can set goals.” No, you don’t. Life can change tremendously in five years. Create goals that make sense for you today. That way you can start out on your journey and you can see where life takes you in the next few years.
“I have to set realistic goals.” Go ahead, dream big. I wonder if Richard Branson has only ever set realistic goals? Setting big goals, whether you achieve them or not, can fuel your motivation. And if you don’t quite make the goal, I bet you’ll be further ahead than you ever thought you’d be.
If you’re going to be brave enough to dream big, be brave enough to redefine so-called failure. One of the reasons we set safe goals is because we’re fearful of falling short. If you always play it safe, you might end up in the same spot without any forward progress.
“Once I start on a goal, I can’t change my mind.” Of course you can. At one time, it was my goal to earn my PhD. I started classes and as much as I love the learning process, I figured out that it wasn’t what I wanted to accomplish in the here and now. It wasn’t the change I was looking for so I stopped it. If a goal doesn’t work for you, deserting it doesn’t make you a failure or a quitter. It may mean that you’ve figured out what’s more important. The goal process is an evolving process, not a static one.
“I failed because I didn’t meet my intended goal.” You didn’t fail because you missed the mark, but you must analyze why you missed your target. It’s the only way you’ll know if you were working on the right goal in the appropriate manner. If you decide to continue to work on this goal, then you’ll find ways to improve your process. Don’t forget to recognize the progress that you’ve made. Then measure how far you’ve come. If you measure what you’ve gained, then you’ve already won. The only true failure is not trying at all.
“It’s all about getting to the big finish.” The biggest misconception about goals is that all of the work you do is solely focused on meeting that end goal. Goals, particularly big ones, should change you. Great goals transform you and that is powerful. I can’t tell you that your journey is going to be all zen-like because sometimes the journey is shit. But the process teaches you a lot about life and yourself. The more you know about yourself, the better prepared you are for the future.
“Once I achieve my goal, life will be perfect.” Maybe it will. Or, maybe it won’t. What if the change you were looking for was not what it was cracked up to be? Sure, achieving goals will change your life. Sometimes, however, it’s not what we envisioned. It’s okay to admit that it doesn’t feel like what you thought it was going to feel like.
“Once I set a goal, it can’t be changed.” Goal setting is fundamentally an exploratory process and one of personal growth. Prepare to take a detour, make shifts, pause, and to re-evaluate along the way. If your original goal no longer makes sense for you, why should you continue?
“Something is wrong because it’s taking too long to complete.” Some goals take years to complete and you may feel as if you aren't making much progress. Therefore it's crucial to take stock of what you’ve accomplished on a regular basis. You may need to set smaller goals, celebrate those successes, and reflect on what you need to do to keep moving forward. No matter how slow things seem, you are probably making progress! Goals are never set in stone, so don't be afraid to amend them if you need to do that.
As for me? I love goals. They work for me. Most of us have big dreams swirling around in our mind that seem impossible to make a reality. Our larger goals seem like an insurmountable mountain and when you’re standing at the foot of that mountain, it’s easy to feel intimidated at the climb ahead of you. Proper goal planning can help break those threatening ambitions into smaller, more steps. You can make that goal a reality.
Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]