Mar 6, 2018 By Dave Nelson, Survivor, Founder, CEO, Speaker & Coach at Milestone Mind
I’m just going to say come out and say it: Traditional goal setting is bullshit.
Yep, all that stuff about envisioning your future is wrong.
Those beautiful vision boards you love to create and hang up in your house, to inspire you and keep you motivated? They are a complete waste of time.
Got your attention? Great.
Now let me tell you why I feel that way, and what you could be doing instead. Changing how you set your goals could revolutionize your life – and that’s not an understatement.
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My Experience with Goal Setting (and How It Went Terribly Wrong)
Shortly after I graduated from college, I started a construction company (yes, really!)
I had taken out a large loan from an acquaintance I met through my college football team, and I had used the cash to start the construction company.
Unfortunately, my company failed, and I was stuck with a $75,000 balance on that loan – and no clear way to pay it back.
That time of my life was extremely stressful. I felt like I was stuck in my own self-imposed prison.
I had started the construction company because it was what society said I was supposed to do. I was supposed to get a mortgage, own a nice car, and make six figures. That’s what we all wanted….right?
The construction business didn’t get me any of those things – and now I was saddled with a $75,000 outstanding loan.
I remember searching everywhere for ideas, while I tried to figure out what to do next.
I got all the books: Dale Carnegie, Jim Collins, Napoleon Hill, and Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” (yeah, I know...the thought of that makes me want to gag at this point). I even read “The Secret.”
With all this books, I felt like I was all set. I took everything I’d learned and started writing out new goals. I created a crystal clear picture of that I wanted my life to look like.
The first goal was to start another company. Then I’d use the piles of money I made from my new company to pay off the business loan.
I followed the advice in “The Secret” to the letter. I created an elaborate vision board, and every morning, I would close my eyes and picture exactly what I wanted. I knew that if I just imagined my goals perfectly, I could attract what I wanted into my life.
The books made it look so easy – but predictably, things didn’t go according to plan.
I decided to found a start-up. I created a brand new app, and start pouring money into the new venture. I knew my vision board, my list of goals, and my intense visioning process was going to pay off. I was a believer.
But the app failed miserably.
I was dumbfounded. I had done everything right – why hadn’t I reached my goals?
Why Setting Traditional Goals Won’t Work
Here’s the little secret the traditional books on achievement and goal setting won’t tell you:
If you begin your goal-setting process by writing down the results you want to achieve (the house, the car, the six-figure income), you’re starting in the wrong place, and you’re probably not going to get what you want.
And if by some chance you DO reach the goals on your vision board, that success is not going to give you an real satisfaction.
The reason you won’t reach your goals (or be satisfied if you do) is that you’re leaving out the most important part of the equation...your values.
The traditional goal-setting process is what I call the “top down” approach. You start with the results you want to achieve, and you don’t consider what’s really important to you in your life. This is completely backwards.
You might add “Make six figures” to your list of goals, but you won’t think about why you want to make more money. You might want that money so you can save for your kid’s college education….or you might want it because you love cars and you want to add a Porsche to your collection.
Either way, if you don’t consider what’s really important to you, you’re just randoming adding an arbitrary goal to the list, and then putting on blinders while you start running on the proverbial hamster wheel to try to reach that goal.
Real satisfaction comes from understanding your true values, and making life decisions based on those values. Doing the reverse destroys people – not just figuratively, but literally. No matter how cool these goals might sound, pursuing them may cause you significant physical, emotional, and psychological
Pursuing goals that aren’t rooted in your true values will rob you of your last shred of passion, because you’ll become a prisoner of your own goals.
What You Should Do Instead of Creating Another Vision Board
If you’re currently setting random results-oriented goals, I urge you to put your vision boards in the dumpster and start over.
Once you’ve wiped your slate clean, do some self-reflection. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are your true values (the real ones, not the fake ones you’re “supposed” to have)?
- What makes you feel fully alive?
- What are your biggest strengths and best character traits?
Yes, this exploration takes work – but once you set this foundation and you understand your core values, creating authentic goals that are truly meaningful to you will be far easier.
How to Stage a Vision Board Prison Jailbreak
When I finally started following a bottom-up approach to setting goals, my priorities completely changed (for the better) and I was able to carve out a path that aligned with my core values. I created a successful business that challenges me and supports me in my continual search for a values-driven life.
Now this type of goal setting is what we practice with our clients here at Milestone Mind, and it’s a core part of my path as a high achiever.
This process literally changed my life – and it can change yours.
But it all starts with throwing out your vision board.
Go ahead, do it right now. We’ll be there when you get back.
STEP ONE: COME TAKE ONE OF OUR FREE 5-MINUTE ONLINE COURSES
People often times struggle identifying what their values actually are as they get older, but it is critical you do this.
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