Why Goals Don’t Work


“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.”

–Stephen Covey

For much of my early professional life, I was a sales manager. I worked in three multi-national companies and one highly robust local firm.

During those twelve years I was responsible for goal programs. I led annual, bi-annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly goal programs. I was also responsible for corporate, regional, branch and individual goal programs. Everywhere that I went, I was asking people for their goals.

Five to ten percent of my sales people produced approximately ninety percent of the revenue. These elite sales professionals were too busy to participate in goal discussions. They were closing deals, running to meetings, taking a call they had been working on for months, etc.

The remaining sales people always had carefully crafted goals and projections.

Something was askew about goal programs.

Not long before I left the staffing industry, we had the most overheated real estate market in the history of Los Angeles. People flew in from other countries to join in bidding wars on properties in tony areas of the city. Some properties went up in value by 20% in one month. People were jumping into the industry. In the “Platinum Triangle” (Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu) homes were going on and off the market in 24 hours.

And yet, the average income of full-time real estate agents in the Platinum Triangle was $16,000. The ones that were into 7 figure incomes were running door-to-door, meeting-to-meeting as if their hair was on fire. The rest sat in the office waiting for Caravan. Many used the time to write out their goals.

The number one problem with virtually any type of goal program is that it is focused on the future.

Nothing of any value happens in the future.

[bctt tweet=”The only place that action can happen or even miracles can take place is right here and right now. ” via=”no”]

People who operate in that space have made a commitment to use every waking moment to create the lives they want to have. They don’t wait and they don’t hope.

When we place a goal into the future, the distance between today and six months leaves room for all types of mischief.  If I am going to be in my ideal weight in six months, that leaves quite a bit of time to slip in a cookie, to miss a day at the gym or to go whole hog and see how much weight I can gain while watching a cheap movie. (It can happen).

Go to the gym because we want to feel better today, because it allows us to be healthy today, because we stand for being as fit as possible every day – even if we are overweight or imperfect.

Live for today.
Make the sales calls today!
Go to the gym today.
Recognize all that you can accomplish today and let the rest stay where it belongs.

[bctt tweet=”If you want to be rich, don’t do it in five years. Today, take the action that moves you in that direction.” via=”no”]

Tomorrow will never be here.


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

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  1. David, this is a refreshing bit of insight into goal setting. As you point out everyone wants to talk about goals in the future. I want to get through my goals for today AND if I do it i right, my long term goals will automagically be achieved because my daily goals all headed in that direction. When someone asks me where I want to be in 5 years, I say , “alive”. My life can change in a heartbeat. If I live my life every day in the way that brings me satisfaction every night and when I wake up in the morning happy to begin again, things are going to turn out OK. I love what you said here “People who operate in that space have made a commitment to use every waking moment to create the lives they want to have. They don’t wait and they don’t hope.” I don’t have to wait to have the life I’ve always wanted. I’m creating it every day.

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