Why Goal Setting May Hinder Progress

Writing Down Goals

Positive psychology researchers and other researchers have found that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. So of course I know that setting goals is important. I also engage in goal setting in all of the services that I provide. However, I believe that a heavy focus on setting goals and achieving them can make people feel like they have never “arrived!”

Instead of focusing on goals exclusively, we should set our intentions and examine our motivations for what we say that we want.

As an Entrepreneur, Therapist, Supervisor, and Coach/Consultant,  I implement and experience goal setting in a multitude of ways.

Entrepreneurship/Career and Goal Setting

It is my recommendation that you plan and set goals. But I think it is vital to maintain flexibility. Your goals can and should be revised often. This is not to suggest a lack of commitment towards one’s goals. Instead what I am suggesting is that your goals need to be considered ideas that may or may not continue to align with who you are as you progress toward them.

After all, who you are in the future is constantly being shaped by the present. If you don’t let your goals shift and change based on new information and new preferences – as well as your updated personal and professional identity – you will find yourself being dissatisfied with the destination when you arrive.

I have found that the chief reason people stay in work settings longer than is healthy or productive involves not only fear (which we all know), but it also involves “loyalty.” Sometimes people “stay the course,” out of a misguided sense of loyalty. They agree to work within and serve an organization and to support the organizational goals.

Notice that organizational goals change frequently. They change when conditions change like:

  • personnel and leadership;
  • budget and resources;
  • mission and vision; etc…

In order to continue to be successful you have to adapt your personal and professional relationship to the organization and how it melds with your overall intentions for your career.

Therapist and Goal Setting

Thankfully, I get to set the parameters for my own therapeutic process with my therapy clients. I keep it simple. Today that looks like setting a general agenda at each meeting based on what the client identifies as important on that day. Because I stopped taking new therapy clients about 5 years ago…my work is primarily personal development.

It is a co-creative process that allows people to be at a pace that aligns with their needs. We don’t focus on goals and treatment outcomes exclusively. Instead the work is more about “being.” The focus is on “Who are you being?”

It is my belief that when people can focus their consciousness on who they are being…they can take in all that as “well” in addition to all that they desire to change. Again “a goal” implies that something must be different.

Sometimes what needs to be different is very subtle…and those subtle shifts over time mean an increased quality of life.

But when we are overly focused on the end goal, we have a tendency to count only our success among the things we can see and the things we can say that we have “done”, such as:

  • more fulfillment;
  • more self acceptance; and things like
  • better boundaries for those where that is a concern.

Supervisor and Goal Setting

As a Supervisor of those providing psychotherapy, a big part of what my supervisees do to set the stage for their therapeutic work is treatment planning. Those are the “goals” of therapy.

I have spoken to many clinicians over the years who work in settings that prescribe the goals, objectives, interventions and strategies based on the diagnosis, symptoms and a theoretical approach that involves the use of evidenced based strategies.

This approach in and of itself is not wrong. In fact, it is an attempt to quantify something that is very difficulty to quantify.

  • How do therapists help people?
  • How can we demonstrate what we did?
  • Were the goals met?

Again, these common practices are necessary  in regard to how we operate complex systems and services. However it does not account for the unique differences  between people and their histories; nor does it support flexibility and creativity clinicians.

This system does not support thinking Clinicians! It supports clinical work in which people second guess themselves and try to support treatment goals that do not align with how they best work as a Therapist.

It is apparent that some organizations have come to adopt strict practice guidelines so that they can effectively monitor treatment. Additionally, they need to be able to report to third party payers.

I believe that this early foundation for many therapists provides a structured experience that can be beneficial. However, this experience can really turn people off. This experience can make “being a therapist” feel like an endless stream of trying to fit into a box that does not fit.

Coach/Consultation and Goals

I’m very excited that I will be embarking on setting goals with new coaching/consultation clients as my group services start up again. If you want to know more, contact me. A few years ago I began offering coaching and consultation for career and practice development.

While we occasionally discussed cases…I found that what I preferred to offer was support for clinicians who are-

  • either trying to add on to some element of their career via changing their work setting;
  • developing a private practice or closing their practice and determining next steps;
  • adding a specialty niche;
  • or discussing personal goals such as the intersections between work and life;
  • and deepening their overall life and career satisfaction.

At the outset (in an introductory meeting) we identify 90 ray, 1-2 year, and 5-10 year goals. However, for me this process is really a vehicle to help me determine their intention.

It is our intentions around what we truly long for…our intentions about what we want more of and what we want less of and why that is truly important.

After all, what we all long for is fulfillment. Fulfillment is unique to each person. Some of the universal themes that add to fulfillment involve “connection” with others.

Some are uniquely aware of the urgency of fulfilling connection needs. Others view career goals as the primary mode for fulfillment. Either way…whether you prioritize professional or personal…dissatisfaction in one arena tends to spill over into dissatisfaction in the other.

Having it all…doesn’t to have to involve grand and big…it’s important to uncover your true motivation. Your real reason why? This is the key to really developing the career that is in the right alignment for you.

Copyright © 2016 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.

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