Setting Goals Is A Waste of Time

Most of you reading the title of this missive are probably either laughing or shaking your heads in disagreement. After all, we’ve all spent years hearing all about the value of setting goals in order to achieve favorable results in life and business. Maybe you’ve even been the one espousing their value.

But perhaps you also are aware of the old saw, that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

Think about it. It’s referring to setting goals without knowing where you’re going. Accomplishing these goals will certainly take you some place…perhaps to a place you like and perhaps to a place you don’t like.

Let me set your mind at ease and clarify that I strongly believe in setting goals. What I find useless, or even worse than useless, is setting goals without knowing where you’re aiming to wind up.

What’s your destination five or ten or even twenty years from now?

The day before writing this I had lunch with the owners of a small company. They were stuck and looking for some help getting their business moving forward. I asked a lot of questions, made a few suggestions, and got them thinking about where they really wanted their company to go and the goals they needed to set to put them on this path. Feeling a bit fuzzy on exactly what they wanted for their business, and overwhelmed by the thought of clarifying their future without support, they asked me to help them create a vision and guide them in setting their feet on the path towards realizing it.

Companies must set goals with one question in mind: does accomplishing this goal move us forward and help us reach our desired future? If the answer is yes, get it done. And then set another goal. If the answer is no, find another goal that will be instrumental in realizing your vision.

Let me give you an example. A company I know set a goal for one of their sales people to close 14 new clients paying $9,000 per quarter with one- year contracts. Fair enough, except they needed clients paying $25,000 per quarter on one year contracts in order to meet their growth and profitability targets on their way to achieving their ten year vision. Other salespeople were meeting this goal. When I pointed this out, the leaders admitted that this goal was set knowing the sales person couldn’t do any better and they were simply helping him keep his job. To make a long story short, his replacement is now hitting the appropriate goal

It’s just wasted effort and resources if you expend your time on things that might be nice to do but aren’t the things critical for your success. Or even worse, you set goals that actually hold you back.

Once you have a clear picture of your destination, setting goals becomes easier…and useful. You have a way to prioritize your limited time. You have a way to prioritize your limited resources. You have a way to answer the question: is this action worth doing?

So go ahead, set a goal. But before you do, make sure you know where you want it to take you and that it will take you where you want to go.







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