Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goals or NOT!!

For years I've harbored a secret ... setting goals doesn't work for me.  I've tried over and over, invoking the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and reminding myself frequently about the gold standard story.  You remember the story I'm sure.  The Yale study that showed that the 3% of the class of 1953 that had specific, written goals twenty years later had greater net worth than the 97% who didn't have written goals ... combined!

But, my inevitable result with goal setting was failure.  I decided it was a character flaw and just put the whole goal-setting thing in a box labeled "maybe someday" (landing right beside New Years Resolutions) and threw a tattered quilt over it.  Funniest thing ... after I quit making goals and just started doing what I wanted to do, things started falling into place.

Every once in awhile however, I'd feel like a slug and bring out that goal thing, dust it off and try it again.  The result was always the same.  When I started thinking about "intention statements" and trying to figure out how they were different from goals, that old Yale story bobbed back to the surface creating a ripple of confusion.  Then I made a discovery.

THERE WAS NO YALE STUDY!  The whole thing was a concoction.  Fast Company magazine (perhaps the best thing to ever happen to business education) debunked it in one of their earliest issues.  It never happened.  They couldn't find the original source of the story but they did go to the source and determined that there was never such a survey of the Yale class of 1953.

So what now? will be the subject of a later post.  In the meantime, do more of what makes you truly happy and less of what you think you "should" do.  (You may have to ask whether or not that third jumbo triple chocolate cup cake would truly make you happy.)

About the image:  About this time last year I was at Kiawah Island with my friend Suzanne so I'm reliving the trip through some of the photos I took.


  1. The story about the never-done-study makes me wonder how many other instances there are.

    I don't set goals, either, which I think tend to impose limitations on responding creatively to what's happening in the present.

  2. Seriously -- that study never happened?

    wow -- 'cause like you, goal-setting has never worked for me! And I too have felt 'less than', almost like a fraud at times, because I believed I shoulda, coulda, woulda done more if only... I'd had the ability to believe in myself to set a goal!

    Thanks my friend!