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Are you Limited by Goals?

Goals are supposed to keep us forever growing and improving, right? But setting goals based on your current reality can confine your future reality. Do you set goals that you know you can reach? If so, you are not really stretching.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." George Bernard Shaw

Bottom-up goal-setting limits what is possible. When we determine our goals by collecting all the current work and summarizing it into goals, you will never come up with anything different than what you are already working on. If you want to meet ambitious goals, set the goal first and then decide on what you need to do to meet the goal. Think of it like a box of what is, if you’re goals keep you in the box you will never explore new possibilities.

S.M.A.R.T goals are dumb. I’m calling BS on S.M.A.R.T. goals. The “A” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Attainable. Setting goals you know you can meet, allows you to do things the same way you’ve always done them by working harder. Set an unattainable goal and you’ll force yourself to find a different way.

Growth Mindset means Setting Un-Attainable Goals. Carol Dweck’s studies on Mindset posed the question “would you rather get a perfect test score and not learn or get an imperfect score, but learn something.” Those that prefer the perfect score are shown to have a ‘fixed mindset’ and limit adaptation and growth. Those willing to get an imperfect score but learn were more adaptable and made bigger impacts over time. Why are we still using a fixed mindset to set goals?

Goals tied to Pay promote Company Failure. Ironically, when you discourage small failures, you invite large failures. If your company is incentivizing people to set attainable goals by giving a bigger bonus to those to set the bar low, there is a compounding effect on the overall company. Would someone at Blockbuster be incentivized to work on a streaming service? No way, too risky!

Process Improvement can limit what is possible. Process improvement can work the same way. If you improve your process by tuning the process, you will not find new opportunities for improvement. A clean sheet approach can open up new ways of thinking. Ask yourself, “how would I do this if I were starting fresh, without any constraints?”

But meeting a goal makes people feel good. I’m not even going to comment on that. You already know this is silly.

Brain Twist. Go revisit your yearly goals. Have a talk with your boss about turning them into moonshots. Sadly, for today you might need to define your bonus “threshold” vs your “moonshot”. Though I usually say “if I say I’m going to make $300M for a 1M investment, will you really fire me if I only make $295M?” For now, define a moonshot for EVERY goal.

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