According to a Harvard Research report: Goals Gone Wild, (The Systematic Side Effects of over prescribing Goal Setting) goal setting is harmful to our mental well-being. The encouragement to set goals is ubiquitous, seemingly a benign way to get us where we want to be. So the declaration of ‘harmful’, how can that be?
Most of us achieve things by working out what we want “I want to buy a house” then deciding on all the required steps: look at house selling sites, pick some out, go see them, bid for one, get the money to buy it, move in. Job done. Goal tick.
But, the argument against goal setting declares that when you lay your cards out with A-Z logic, your destination is a known and you lose out on all the opportunities that letting your imagination run wild gives you. The “I want to buy a house” goal focuses you on houses for sale in the vicinity you want to live in and precludes dreaming up other possibilities. For instance, the off-chance of someone approaching you with an alternative offer: “I have a castle in the South of France and need a house-sitter for the next ten years. Fancy it? There’s heated outdoor pool and as much wine as you want”. Imagine you’d just hoiked yourself up to a mammoth mortgage on the house in Croyden?
But harmful? Well, in some cases the pressure to set and hit challenging goals distorts behaviour with seriously harmful effects on others. Look at the banking system. Full of people overly stretching to achieve high end targets, promoting unethical behaviour and causing cataclysmic disaster for the world economy.
The problem seems to be the narrow, myopic focus of specific short term goals. It stops the mind being open to wider longterm possibilities. In New York people complain that it’s nearly impossible to get a cab on a rainy day. The reason is that cab drivers are on a target to earn double what they have to pay to rent their cab for a twelve hour shift. More people hail when it’s rainy so the cab drivers hit their target earlier and head home. They don’t consider the longer term benefit of earning even more if they stayed on the road longer to make up for the quieter sunny days when people prefer to walk.
Creative coaching encourages people to set goals differently. We identify our core values first, e.g. be adventurous, loving, compassionate, playful, trustworthy, peace-loving, team player, funny, creative, thoughtful, courageous, daredevil. Whatever it is, that is the starting point for everything. The goals aren’t narrow, myopic or incentivised. They are open, have wide horizons and encourage adaptability. They allow for the imagination to take over, for questions and curiosity, for change. They focus on what we like doing, what we are good at, they encourage growth and they answer our own unique needs. There is a place for collaboration, for passion, for big dreams.
We build on our strengths in a non-judgemental process in which we thrive and grow. What might seem like a mountain is a journey broken into small manageable steps, with the focus always on enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfilment. Goal setting with a difference.
Make a difference in your life and in the lives of others by learning to focus on what you love, with a Creative Thinking Coach. Book here for a trial consultation to find out more.
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All illustrations & photo-quotes by Lou Hamilton