Goals Gone Wrong

I’m a goal setter. It seems as if most people who succeed in life are goal setters too. After all, without a goal how will you know when you’ve achieved success? Goals give us something to shoot for, keep us on track and allow us to measure progress. All in all, goal setting is a very good thing…most of the time.

There’s the old adage, “What gets measured gets done,” and sometimes we come to realize our measurements got us focused on the wrong activities. Here are a few examples.

About 25 years ago, around the time I started with State Auto, I was a commercial lines underwriter. At the time, a point system was put in place to measure our work. A full day of work was 60 points and various tasks (new business, renewals, changes, etc.) were given specific point totals. People quickly learned how to maximize their points while minimizing their effort. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to announce before lunch that they’d hit their 60 points. That could be accomplished more easily by tackling simple policy changes rather than dealing with new business even though the new business was more important. In other words, we were not incenting the right behaviors for the outcome we wanted.

A personal example comes from me. I used to run marathons and was very competitive with myself. My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which I was able to do. To reach this goal, I would lay out a 24-week training plan with specific runs every day. Sometimes I became a slave to the plan. If a day called for an eight-mile run at a particular pace I was intent on getting eight miles at that pace come hell or high water. The only problem is sometimes my body was telling me to slow down, cut the miles or rest altogether. Not listening to my body usually resulted in injuries that only served to make reaching the ultimate Boston Marathon goal harder.

So what can you do so your goals don’t go wrong?

  • First, remember why. Constantly recall why you set the goal. This is why plans and strategies have been put in place. Success isn’t following the plan to the letter, it’s reaching the goal.
  • Second, be flexible. Don’t become a slave to the plan because sometimes flexibility can lead to better results over the long haul. (Remember my body telling me to rest.)
  • Third, don’t be afraid of change. If you see the plan is starting to distort the goal or it isn’t keeping you on pace to reach your goal don’t be afraid to change it or scrap it altogether.

Goal setting is good when it’s done right. If you read my post a few weeks ago on how to PAVE the Way to Success, then you know the principle of consistency comes into play when you set a goal and share it with others. As you set your 2016 goals, make sure they are Public, Active, Voluntary and Effortful.

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