Smart Goal Setting: The Importance of Setting Realistic Goals

By Carl Natale

I once worked for a boss who wanted us to assign a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) to every project and proposal. When we created a site for small business owners, it was supposed to be “The top visited site for small business owners looking for solutions to their problems.”

We never got close.

That doesn’t mean we failed. It was a good site that attracted decent traffic and feedback. But it didn’t live up to it’s BHAG. It could be argued that if we didn’t set our sights so high, we wouldn’t have landed as far ahead as we did.

So it’s tempting to apply the same BHAG strategy to personal growth and goals. Why just take up running when you can set out to be the fastest marathon runner in the world? Why settle for setting realistic goals?

Because it doesn’t work argues Ray Williams in Psychology Today:

“My experience in working with individuals and organizations is that most do not actually achieve the goals that are set. One of two things occur: Either the goal is so difficult that the individual or organization is actually demotivated or demoralized early in the process of trying to achieve it; or, the goals are set, and thereafter, little or no attention is focused on them. The result is often demotivation and negative attitudes toward goal setting.”

Basically, the brain is built to resist change. And audacious goals inspire a lot of resistance to change. Williams argues that smart goal setting focuses on incremental changes and improvements. And align those goals with our current values. This will get us much farther.

How far do you reach when you set goals?



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