Are Goals Are a Waste of Time?

I’m a big advocate of settings goals. So, I was very surprised and intrigued when I got an email from Jeff Goins with the subject: Planning for the New Year: Why Goals Are a Waste of Time

In it Jeff writes:

Goals don’t work, and resolutions are a waste of time. For the first time in awhile, I’m not going to bother with any silly plans or projections for the new year.

What you need instead is one crucial ingredient: resolve. Not resolutions; resolve. The willingness to commit to a new way of living.

How do you do this? By creating hew habits. (Leo Babauta taught me this.)

I did this — stopped setting goals and started creating new habits — this year, and it made all the difference.

He goes on to list the many successes he had in 2011 with this approach.

Jeff is a very insightful guy, and this strategy obviously worked for him. Because it’s so radical from my own way of doing things, my mind hasn’t been able to let it go.

Good Habits are Productivity Multipliers

Good habits are productivity multipliers because they help you do things quickly without thinking about them. You probably have habits and routines for all sorts of tasks like mowing the lawn, to cleaning the house, to cooking a meal, to checking and responding to email.

Let’s say I want to visit my friend who lives 50 miles away. If I step out my front door and start walking, no amount of goal setting or will-power is going to get me to his house before dark. What I need is a new way of thinking, a new way of living, a new habit. I need to stop walking and bike it. (Or even better, tap into the power of automation and external power sources and drive a car.)

In that respect, I think Jeff is right. Often what keeps us from achieving our dreams are bad habits and poor organization. We need better systems.

Not the whole story

But with all due respect, I don’t think Jeff gave us the whole story in his blog post.

Some of the accomplishments Jeff listed included launching a new blog, getting a book deal, publishing a few ebooks, changing jobs, and running a half-marathon.

The habits that produced these results?

  • Started getting up early
  • Over-committed and over-delivered
  • Reached out and made new friends
  • Practiced generosity

Those are great habits to be sure, but if you do those things will you end up with a popular new blog, a book deal, and a medal for completing a half marathon? Not necessarily.

Somewhere along the way Jeff must have set goals for launching a new website, getting a book deal, completing a half marathon and the rest. He may not called them resolutions, or set a specific date or even written them down. But at some point those became goals that he decided to pursue. (Right Jeff?)

Walking may be inefficient, but if I don’t know where I’m going, neither a bike nor a car is not going to get me there faster.

If you want to succeed, it’s important to have both clear goals and good habits.

I think the reason why Jeff’s article has stayed on my mind is because I may be where he was last year. I’ve got a pretty clear idea of what my goals and dreams are. I need to put more attention on developing the habits that are going to empower me to get there.

What do you think? Are goals a waste of time? Have you set goals for 2012? Are you putting more emphasis on clarifying goals or developing better habits?

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