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Speech of the Week: Set Appropriate Goals

Because there’s been so much emphasis in the personal development world on goal setting, the idea of the “SMART” goal is probably something that you’ve heard about.  Admittedly, it’s a decent formula to provide clarity on any given specific goal, and therefore not completely broken (although I do prefer to use the SMARTER goal template myself). 

What is broken, however, is your ability to choose appropriate goals. 

And by this, I mean goals that don’t set you up for failure.  

The most commonly selected type of goal is an achievement goal. 

Let’s briefly go over the characteristics of an achievement goal: 

-Highly definable project or accomplishment

-Usually tangible

-Represents a “big win”

-Often represents a dramatic amount of progress or change. 


Examples of an achievement goal can be hitting a certain body-fat percentage, writing a book, winning a competition, or making a certain amount of money.  

Let me be very human: if I suddenly had a lower body-fat percentage, was a published author, won a dramatic competition, and increased my income, I’d feel pretty darn accomplished! 

So why don’t you or I have multiples of these things? 

We set goals, right? 

(Hint: it’s probably not because we’re lazy, untalented, stupid, or discriminated against).    

Here’s the HUGE caveat of achievement goals:

IF an achievement goal is outside of your current capacity to work at it consistently and relentlessly and recover from that work, it will fail.  Bar none.   

-If you don’t exercise regularly and intensely, eat well, and get enough sleep you will not lose fat.  

-If you’re not currently a writer, you won’t get that book published.  

-If you’re not competing, you won’t win a competition (in whatever it’s in)


Achievement goals tend to hit people’s excitement button.  They get whipped up into a short frenzy and then they cannot sustain that level of effort.  This is directly related to the Motivational-Guilt Cycle.  


Achievement goals have a way of accessing our personal sense of worth and when used improperly lead to burn-out, a sense of guilt, and a fixed mindset. 


Goal set, goal failed, nothing learned. 

And often without even really getting started!   

Be cautious of selecting an achievement goal. 

The appropriate time and place is when:

-You already have proven skill and capacity in the functional area.  

-You already have systems, structure, and accountability surrounding it (think, it can’t possibly fail from your daily routine).  

-You only have 1-2 other achievement goals in place across your whole life.  That’s probably pushing the boundaries, too.  

-The path to success is clear-cut, not subjective or metaphorical, or dependent on too many factors outside your control.  

NEXT TIME: let’s talk behavioral goals.  This is where 90% of our efforts need to be.  

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