Is Setting Goals Good Or Bad?


Thursday, 8.24pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life. I learned this first through agriculture, because all farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest. – Howard Graham Buffett

Should you set goals or not? If you have a goal do you improve your chances of achieving it? Or do they just get abandoned, like many New Year’s resolutions?

My YouTube spinner put some videos on copywriting in front of me, including some by Michael Masterson. I had a look at one of his books and saw him reference Dale Carnegie, who said that most people struggle because they haven’t set goals but others struggle because they have too many goals.

This struck a chord with me because I have found goal setting a pointless pastime personally and professionally. Personally, goals are often mechanical, like saving a certain percentage of your income, or almost impossible to sustain, like giving up sugar.

Professionally, most people set goals they can easily achieve because if their salaries are tied to achieving goals it makes sense to make them as simple as possible.

On the other hand, some bosses seem to think that you can set unattainable goals to motivate people but what’s more likely is that when people realize that they can’t reach those goals. they either stop or go somewhere else.

Some goals are the wrong ones for you – like setting a goal to make money when what you need to figure out is what you’re going to do that will create value for someone else and therefore make money.

But you can also have too many goals – where you’re trying to do everything and that can end up with you doing nothing much. There just isn’t enough time to go around and do a little bit of everything hoping to achieve something big.

If you want to actually make something happen having eggs in lots of baskets is a losing strategy. What you want to do is put all those eggs in one basket and watch that basket really closely.

Then again, the word “goal” is a useful bit of shorthand – something that forces you to describe what you’re trying to do.

Once you’ve done that then you can look at what you do and stop doing all the things that don’t contribute towards achieving your goal.

Maybe the real value of working towards a goal has nothing to do with the goal itself. It’s your new-found ability to say “No!” to anything that does not move you towards it.


Karthik Suresh

2 Replies to “Is Setting Goals Good Or Bad?”

  1. Wow, that final sentence really sums it up. I myself have been thinking a lot about goals vs systems lately, and I think daily action matters much more than just setting your lists in order. Thanks so much for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree entirely on the daily action point Stuart – that’s well made. I think where I’m leading with the goals idea is really closer to purpose – what’s the purpose of the goal you’re thinking of setting, what’s the purpose of the system you’re creating? Then, make sure everything you do serves that purpose.


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