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Should You Set Goals? The Pros and Cons of Goal Setting

goal setting pros and cons

Should you set goals? Is goal setting going to be helpful to you? The theory of goal setting has been around for as long as I can remember. And when we talk about setting goals and reaching them, most of us believe that it is something helpful, but is it really so?

In this article, we will dive in and talk about the pros and cons of goal setting. We will talk about the advantages that you gain when you are goal-focused and the disadvantages of it and why it does not work for most people.

When you see a successful person, what you see is his results and his glories, you will never notice how much time, effort, and hardships he has poured in to achieve the success he enjoys now.

And the same goes with goal setting. When we talk about our goals, we often only see the good side of it. We only talk about the advantages of goal setting but we never really think if it is something that is truly good for us.

The Pros and Cons of Setting Goals

Let us talk about the good and bad of setting goals. When you have a goal, it may or may not motivate you to achieve it.

In other words, goal setting can be helpful to you at times and can be harmful at times. You have to find out. Here are some of the most common benefits of goal setting:

1. Goals give you focus and direction

Yes, when you have a goal, it gives you focus and a clear direction of where to go. You know exactly what you need to do to get there.

For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, you know that you should exercise and eat less junk food. Your goals will define your actions.

The problem is that you must be absolutely clear with your goals. There is a saying, “Vague goals produce vague results.”

Most people have unclear and unspecific goals, and that is why they fail to formulate a great plan to achieve their goals.

2. Goals help you identify your priority

Your goals tell you what you need to do at this moment. For example, you can choose to watch TV or read the book to improve yourself. And if personal development is one of your goals, you know it very well that choosing to read the books is the right decision.

Thus, goals help you identify your priority. You know it very well about what you need to do. You know your priority.

Of course, whether you choose to do it or procrastinate on it is another story. Most people fail to take consistent action and tend to procrastinate on their goals because their goals are not what they truly want.

You can watch this presentation from John Assaraf where he shares the secrets how anyone can set and achieve their goals.

3. Gives you motivation

When you have an exciting goal, it will drive you to achieve it. Goals can give you motivation.

If your goals don’t motivate you, it simply means that your goals are not exciting enough or that they may not be something that you truly want.

Tony Robbins says it wisely:

When the goals you set are what you truly want where they are backed with strong and emotional purposes, plus that you make them exciting, you will be automatically pulled toward them.

Your goals will motivate you if you set them right in the first place.

4. Gives you a sense of satisfaction

Achieving your goals can give you a sense of satisfaction. The key is in taking action and making progress.

If you are not doing anything at all, you will feel pressured instead of feeling satisfied.

But if you take massive action and are slowly producing the results that you desire, it makes you feel good. It is a fulfilling feeling and this is the emotion that will drive you to take even more action.

The key is to make progress. Your goals can only show you the way, but whether you are going to take the path is up to you.

5. Goals make you more productive

When you set goals to build a successful blog, you become productive because you will spend more time building your blog rather than spending more time on social media.

Your goals are the reminder of what you want. And they can act as the trigger to put you into taking action.

And when you take action, you become productive. You choose to work on the things and area that you want rather than being reactive and doing whatever that comes to you or what you feel like doing.

You see, when you set the right goals, they drive you to become more productive. On the other hand, when you don’t have any goal at all, you become directionless and are getting nowhere.

6. Improves your skills and knowledge

Your goals force you to formulate plans to achieve them. This will directly help you improve your skills and knowledge in the field.

For example, if you set a goal to win the tennis competition held in your neighborhood, what will you do? You train hard, right?

And when you train, you become better. Your skills improve. You may even go and get yourself a mentor to further boost your knowledge of the game and how you can win the competition.

Of course, it all depends on your commitment and how serious you are with your goals.

But overall, your goals make you someone better in the area of the goals.

7. Expands your comfort zone

Another benefit of goal setting is that it helps you expand your comfort zone. Without goals, you are going to live your life as it is. You are reactive and you act on whatever that comes to you.

Things will be different when you have a goal. You are forced to take action and do something that is not what you will normally do.

In other words, your goals force you to take action and do something that is out of your comfort zone. This is because your goals are outside of your comfort zone, which is why you set it in the first place, right?

After going through the benefits, let us go through the disadvantages of goal setting…

1. Your goals can kill your creativity

Yes, goal setting can kill your creativity. When you set goals, you are also setting the constraints that limit the flow of your creative juices.

This is especially true if your goal is extremely specific that it limits the freedom of how you do things.

Watch this interesting video from Daniel Pink, a psychology who shares his discoveries on how motivation works in a fixed environment:

You will discover that when people focus too much on getting the results (their goals), they tend to a little of their creative power.

There are many ways you can go to Rome. Just like there are many ways how you can reach your destination. But when you put limits by setting goals, you limit the freedom you are going to get in the journey.

2. Makes you stressed and pressured

This is common and easy to understand. Sometimes your goals make you motivated, and sometimes they can make you feel pressure and stress.

Of course, this depends on what kind of goals you set. If you set something extremely hard to achieve, then yes, you can feel stressed and pressured.

And it is often the stress and pressure that you feel that force you to procrastinate and abandon your goals.

When you are in danger, your mind will kick in the fight-or-flight mechanism. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you choose to not do the work, right?

Some people may choose to fight and just do the work, but they are doing it in terms of pressure, which may not be an ideal condition.

What you want is to create a goal that is not overly difficult or too easy to achieve. We called it the Goldilocks’ Rule.

Your goals should follow the rule so that you will feel just nice to take action.

3. Chasing the wrong things

One of the most fatal mistakes that most people make when it comes to goal setting is chasing the wrong goal.

If you set the wrong goal, you will end up pursuing the wrong thing, which is a big disadvantage of goal setting.

The thing is that we are all influenced by our surroundings and the people who we mix with most of the time. And when we see someone drives a new car or change a new phone, we want that it too.

This makes us want to compare and set our intention to chase the wrong things.

One of the most common goals that people set is financial freedom. People want to get rich. Why? Well, because we are all wired to fit in and when we see someone who is rich and able to enjoy luxury items, we want to be like them too.

So don’t set the wrong goals. Here’s a good article from FastCompany.com that you should read:

How To Set Goals For The Life You Actually Want

5. Goals force you to focus on the results and not progress

This is where most people get it wrong. When it comes to setting goals, what people do is that they set and focus the results that they want.

And this is actually a bad move. What gets you the result is the progress. Focusing on the result alone is not going to be helpful.

James Clear shares a great example on his blog and this is what he says:

As you know, I publish a new article every Monday and Thursday. Since my first article on November 12, 2012, I’ve never missed a scheduled date. Sometimes the article is shorter than expected, sometimes it’s not as compelling as I had hoped, and sometimes it’s not as useful as it could be… but it gets out to the world and into your inbox.

The results of this simple schedule have been amazing. Our little community has grown, seemingly without effort. We now have over 1,100 people (welcome friends!) who are committed to living a healthy life and who are actively supporting one another. Onwards to 5,000 strong!

Imagine if I had set a deadline for myself instead, like “get 1,000 subscribers in 12 weeks.” There’s no way I would have written every Monday and Thursday and if I didn’t reach my goal, then I would have felt like a failure.

Instead, we are slowly building one of the most incredible communities online. (By the way, thank you for all of the emails, tweets, and messages on fat loss, lifting weights, living longer, and forming better habits. Keep them coming! I’m always happy to get your questions and I’ll do my best to help however I can.)

In my opinion, this is the biggest disadvantage of goal setting – it forces us to think only on the result that we desire and ignore the progress.

Should You Set Goals?

After going through the pros and cons of goal setting, do you think you should set goals?

Well, I believe that goal setting is still one of the most powerful tools that anyone can use to achieve the results that they want in life.

The key is that you must first identify the goals that you really want.

Set goals for the things that you truly want to achieve deep within your heart. Don’t set goals to achieve something just because you saw someone did it and you wanted the same.

After that, make sure your goals are exciting and able to motivate you to take action. If your goals don’t motivate you, highly likely, you have set the wrong goals.

You may want to reconsider your goals or improve them if this happens.

Besides that, make sure you follow the Goldilocks’ Rule and set a goal that is not too difficult or too easy to achieve. Your goals must be something that feels “just nice” to you so that you will be driven to achieve them.

Finally, focus on the progress and not the result.

While it is true that you want the result, the progress is what gets the whole thing moving.

Therefore, create schedules so that you know what to do each day or each week to move forward and make progress toward your goals.

And if you need more help in reaching your goals, watch these videos to learn how you can unleash your mental power and use neuroscience to achieve the success you want.

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About Shawn Lim

I'm a blogger, writer, and also an internet entrepreneur. If you want to learn more about me, kindly go to the About page. By the way, have you downloaded your FREE copy of Active Goal Setting? Don't forget to do so. :)

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