In 1953 Yale University started a long term study the goal setting habits of the graduating class of that year. They wanted to know how the careers of those who set goals would turn out. Years later they found that the 3% of the graduates who routinely set and worked on goals – had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of the class combined. That’s an amazing consequence and an almost overwhelming endorsement of goal setting huh? The only problem is that the Yale Study of Goals never took place. It’s a myth.
And know this please. It turns out that setting and then chasing after goals can often backfire in horrible ways. There is a good case to be made that many of us would do better to spend less time on goal setting and instead spend more time focusing on how we would like the future to turn out.
Let’s face it, we live in a world where acquisition, achievement and career success have become all important. This has been supported by our innate desire to have more and be more in life.
A whole movement which studied the psychology of success, whether it’s achieving our personal goals and/or our business goals, has taught us that the only way to “succeed” is to set clearly defined goals. Having set these goals, they are achieved by focusing unwaveringly on their achievement and taking action, often daily, to achieve those chosen outcomes.
But the truth is – outcomes and never guaranteed regardless of what we do and the very goal setting process could be ruining our lives.
So what should we do?
Well how about this?
Within all of us is a sense of inner wisdom that can be used to guide us in every aspect of our life including being successful in business. It can guide us to achieve all that is for us to achieve. This inner wisdom can inspire us with new ideas and options that we had perhaps not considered and it can be used to guide us in the creation of our dreams. By dreams I mean those ideas and often random synchronicities that come us to that inspire us to act on them. They are not goals that we set, but are ideas that well up from inside us, that just come to us and take hold of us. These dreams feel right, they energize us and they are totally in alignment with who we are.
Most importantly of all, our inner wisdom can guide us in how to be happy in all that we do because it has our fulfillment at its core. This innate wisdom really can see the bigger picture of our lives as well as our talents and skills and it gives us these gifts of creative insight at just the right time. And often all we have to do is ask is “What is the Universe offering me right now?” “What things are happening naturally and easily for me at this moment?” It may be that right now there is no action to take, no dream to act on and if we can accept that everything is perfect for us, then we really are acting in alignment with Universal flow.
So goal setting has a place in our lives and in our business activities of course. But, so does that inner wisdom we have, to which we might benefit from giving more of our attention.
Some of the above article liberally adapted from the writings of Sara Alexander Oliver Burkeman by me.