Goals are a very accepted and highly promoted way of accomplishing what we want in life.
It’s no wonder so many people advocate and practice goal-setting. However, in his book Overachievement, Dr. John Eliot paints a very different picture. In his study of high performers, he has discovered they think differently from most people. The traditional focus on goal setting is not what drives them.
It is a myth that success is about setting the right goals and working hard to achieve them. The path to the top is rarely so direct. And the most inspired stories (coincidentally belonging to the happiest people) are about achievements that stemmed from unexpected career twists, events, and discoveries of people open to all the possibilities that life may offer them.
Does goal setting influence “success drive” (a term I use in my book, Breaking the Spell)?
Absolutely. Goals involve focusing on what you want to accomplish in the future. They’re about achieving more. It’s not that goal setting is bad, it’s just another example of the way we’ve been conditioned to always seek more.
I know I was a victim of relentless goal setting for years. I’d set a goal, achieve it, and immediately set a new goal. I was so busy looking toward the next mountain to climb that I never stopped long enough to celebrate my achievements. That constant focus on the future caused me to burn out. It was also at the root of much frustration, because I was never satisfied with where I was.
I no longer set goals.
Instead, I have a vision of what I’d like to achieve, but I leave the specifics open. I have found this allows me to be more present while still being open to growth. I don’t become so attached to specific outcomes that I drive myself crazy trying to achieve them. Yes, a vision is harder to measure than specific goals, but given my personality type, I’ve found it to be a much healthier way to manage my success drive.
Excerpted from “Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”