Setting Goals is Ineffective

Alright, I am going to say something that some of you are not going to like or agree with.

Setting Goals is ineffective.

In fact, usually setting goals is a waste of time. Most goals we set never get met, leaving us with a sense of failure. All you goal setting ninjas out there, please don’t check out, there is more…

We may have our long, mid, and short-term goals, and they all line up with each other. Goals may be written out, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (SMART goals), but for some reason most never get accomplished. There is a reason for that and I have a theory.

Now, before I give you my thoughts, keep in mind that I didn’t say that we should not set goals, nor did I say that setting goals is always ineffective. Goal setting, like any tool can be very effective when used in the right context, however most of the time they are not.

If you were to do an extensive historical study on the common traits of successful people, I think you would find that they were not all extraordinary goal-setters. You would find that one thing they tend to have in common is they are all had a vision. They had a clear vision of what they believed could be, and should be, then they committed themselves to that desired outcome.


Setting goals is important, however I believe that a healthy vision is more important than goals. Productive people focus on vision and priorities before goals. Unproductive people focus more on goals at the expense of their vision. In fact, unproductive people often have too many goals. It’s like having a 1000-piece puzzle, with no box to look at.

“a healthy vision is more important than goals.”

If you have all your SMART goals in place, but you don’t have a clearly defined vision that you are excited about and committed to, you will struggle to muster up motivation to follow through with your goals. You know what steps you need to take, and you agree that you will be better off if you take those steps, but the fire just isn’t there and you compromise or find a good reason to change your course. Desire comes from vision not goals.

Everyone has goals, but not everyone has vision. Even the laziest, short sighted person has a goal of not being bothered by future notions, and he goes to great lenths to achieve it. The problem is, that he doesn’t know where that thinking will lead him. He doesn’t know where he is going.

“Where there is no vision, people perish”. Ancient Proverb

If you have a clear vision and it’s always on your mind, you will naturally move toward it even with limited goals. The purpose of setting goals is to clarify and accelerate the process of your vision, not substitute for it. Unfortunately, I think that so many goal-oriented people fail to place their goals on the foundation of a clear minded vision.


Highly successful, productive people work on developing their vision more than less successful people. They visualize how they want their desired outcome to look like and feel like. Day after day they think through the details to make their vision as complete as they can. They believe the more complete their vision is, the more they will be exposed to, and ready for opportunities presented to them. They focus on their vision daily and keep what’s most important on the top of their mind, creating an opportunistic mindset.

The funny thing about goals, they represent pain and sacrifice. Think about it, we only set goals to get ourselves to do something we don’t want to do. If we did, we wouldn’t need goals, it would happen naturally.

We need to direct our attention to the solutions, not dwell on the problem. If we have a tooth ache and we are afraid to go to the dentist because it’s going to hurt, we are focused on the wrong thing. We need to think about how wonderful it will be like once you are pain free. Our vision needs to be about what could be and should be, not paralized by what is. If we are overweight or need to be healthier, we can choose to focus on all the good food we can’t eat, and all the hard excercise we need to do, or we can focus on the benefits of what it will be like when we are healthy.

“Vision always precedes preparation. Initially, your vision will exceed your competency.”
Andy Stanley, Visioneering

Vision helps clarify a mental picture to give you an emotional lift to drive you through the pain. Vision provides inspiration. Goal setting provides the bridge to get from here to there more quickly, provided there is something on the other side you are looking forward to.

Don’t just set goals, create a detailed vision for your day, your month, your life, then live toward it every day! Align your goals as rungs of your ladder not as the destination.

Tell me your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s