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KEY 048: The Science of Goal Setting that Actually Works

Goal Setting Can Have Side Effects

Most people think goal setting is a beneficial part of business and life. But research shows there are more negative aspects of goal setting than positive ones. Think about that. 

Most people overdose on goal setting because they're not trained on the proper methods of goal setting. We hope to change that in this episode.

Most goal setting is done wrong. It's like handing out high-potency prescription drugs to anybody who wants them. They're more harmful than good.

Where we go wrong with goal setting

There are two primary ways most people miss the mark when it comes to goal setting.

  1. They don't set any goals at all
  2. They set goals that destroy their progress

Most goal setting training revolves around the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

These are fantastic guidelines and get you closer to where you need to be but there are some critical details that can't be left out. 

According to a Harvard Business School research study there are massive negative side-effects that come from over-prescribing goal setting.

Set Goals for The Whole Self

When we set goals in business and life we tend to look at very narrow areas rather than the whole self approach.

There are great goals that actually have collateral damage in other important areas we don't happen to be watching. We celebrate achieving the goal and later find out we caused more harm than good.

"Most people set goals without considering the bigger picture and the damage the goal may cause in other areas."

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Too Broad or Too Many 

There's a careful balance we need to find in our goal setting in order for them to be most effective. 

Most of us set broad goals that cover a large part of our life or our business. These goals are very difficult to measure and often don't give us the focus we need to really drive things forward. 

The other side of this issue is when our goal setting is too narrow and we're forced to set far too many goals in order to cover all the areas of importance. These are just as difficult to measure and nearly impossible to focus on effectively. 

Goal Setting Can Encourage Unethical Behaviour

When we set goals that have a very narrow focus we can often have negative consequences that arise out of achieving the goal.

Some companies such as Enron become so focused on revenue they completely overlook negative actions some might take in order to achieve that goal.

A lot of entrepreneurs will do something similar when it comes to profit before health or relationships. 

Enron is a great "bad example" of how goal setting didn't take into consideration the negative consequences.

"I Know What To Do...

I'm Just Not Doing It!"

You've read all of the books and you still struggle with procrastination, lack of focus, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and even a fear of success.

You Don't Need Another Book!

Emotional Blocks

What You'll Hear in This Episode

Here are the big topics we cover on the science behind goal setting that actually works.

You can scroll to the exact time you want:


Are Your Goals Too Specific

When you hyper-focus on very specific areas you set yourself up to miss other equally important areas. You essentially get very narrow tunnel-vision on your goals.


Set Goals for Performance and Learning

Make sure your goals take into consideration your need to improve and grow personally. Set learning or process improvement goals that may not have an immediate impact on performance but are still vital to your long-term growth and success.


Are Your Goals Too Challenging?

We all hear about setting challenge goals or those BHAG - Big Hair Audacious Goals that feel great when you set them because you're focused on how great the outcome will be when you hit them, but most of the time these goals push us beyond our skills to challenge ratio and end up hurting our long-term belief in our ability to reach goals.


Make Sure You Have Ownership of Your Goals

One of the greatest intrinsic motivators is autonomy. This means, you need to feel like your goals are your goals. If someone else is setting your goal and you don't have total buy-in on the goal, you're not going to be motivated at all. But, you also have to be careful to have accountability in your goal setting so you don't make them too easy for yourself, which will also decrease your interest in the goal. 


Set Goals that are Intrinsically Motivating

There are two types of motivators, external and internal. Research shows internal or intrinsic motivators are far more effective than external motivators. Yes, we're all motivated by external rewards but those aren't the things that are going to fuel us through the toughest challenges. Make sure your goals include the intrinsic rewards we need to go the distance.


Consider How Your Goals Impact All Areas

Make sure your goals include everyone involved and not just yourself. If you're an entrepreneur, this would likely mean those who you have a relationship with outside of your business. How will your spouse and kids be impacted by you pursuing your goals? 


Are Your Goals Too Short Term Focused

We all know it's important to set both long-term and short-term goals, but it's also important to make sure your short-term goals don't ignore the long-term consequences. The opposite can be true as well, making sure your long-term goals don't destroy what you need to get done in the short-term.


Make Sure Team Goals Adjust For Varying Abilities

Not everyone on your team is gifted in all areas. Some vital members of your team may not be able to impact your team goals. Make sure your team goals can be adjusted for each member so everyone feels they play a part in achieving the goal.


Look at How Your Goals Influence Risk Taking

Too often we become so focused on achieving a big goal we take huge risks and put everything in jeopardy. Make sure your goals aren't encouraging unwise risks. While risk-taking is an important part of stretching to achieve more, it has to be calculated risk with safeguards in place to protect the most important elements of your business or life.


Do Your Goals Encourage Unethical Behaviour?

Are your goals promoting a "win at all costs" attitude? If you're willing to do whatever it takes to increase revenue and in turn become dishonest or unethical in your business practices, you may hit your goal but completely destroy your company. 

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What is The Key?

The KEY to better relationships, improved finances, and achieving peak performance isn't somewhere "out there" in another book, seminar, or training program, it already exists within you. You don't have to go find it, you just have to unlock it... and that's what show you how to do on The Key Podcast.

Paul desmond adams

Personal development coach

purpose | goals | career | relationships | Wellness

Paul is a super high achiever trapped in a misfits body. He's dreamed of and worked towards the highest levels of success, but held back by disorganization, distraction, and procrastination. He's always known what to do but hasn't been able to do what he knows... and it wasn't his fault. 

John hawkins jr, M.S., L.M.H.C.


peak performance strategist

John is a licensed psychotherapist who has helped thousands of people deal with past trauma, addiction, and broken relationships. After years of helping people breakthrough their internal blocks to success, he now realizes most us KNOW what to do, we just don't DO what we know... and it's typically not our fault. 

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