Goals get you nowhere

Now before you start looking for ways to respond and tell me how wrong I am for that title, let me explain.  Goals and objectives have a place in everyone’s life.  They are an important factor in the business world, for athletic teams, for non-profit service organizations, and in personal development and growth.  The use and focus of goals are where the problem lies for many of us.  

First, goals in and of themselves don’t accomplish anything.  Daily habits, committed effort, and focused actions drive long-term results.  While goals may provide direction and temporary motivation, long-term achievement is driven by consistent behavior not a goal statement.  Repetitive actions develop habits which lead to a lifestyle and ultimately an identity.  In the midst of that process, we set goals as evaluation points to monitor our progress.  These evaluation points indicate whether we need to make adjustments or not.

Secondly, I would encourage everyone to start with purpose before setting goals.  Purpose allows us to think long-term and broader in our view of what we are looking to accomplish.  Here again, goals can be used as mile markers along the way to gauge our progress and identify when adjustments are needed.  Goals support the purpose, not the reversal.

For example, several years ago I decided that I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle.  I changed my eating habits and started an early morning workout routine every day.  I set goals within that workout routine from time to time to monitor progress. I even monitor my run times at different mile markers to check my pace and make adjustment where needed.  The goals though are just evaluation points and not the ultimate purpose. 

Goals are often finite and have an ending.  Purpose should not end. Purpose continues even when goals are not met.  Purpose continues when the run time is not what you wanted, the scales don’t provide the number you want, or the scoreboard proclaims another the winner.  While goals can be motivating to some, they can demotivate others if used improperly.  

Start with purpose to frame an identity.  Develop a lifestyle to shape that identity.  Commit to habits to lead to that lifestyle.   Take regular actions to develop those habits.  Set some goals along the way that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART), but keep in mind, these are mile markers only.  Those regular actions are more important than achieving a temporary goal.  Those actions, habits, lifestyle, and identity lead to sustainable results and a purposeful life.

The progression above is relevant for individuals, organizations, teams, and governments.  We should all be known for our purpose(s).  What’s your purpose?  What’s your organization’s purpose?  What’s your team’s purpose?  Give it some thought and go live a purposeful life!


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