7 Reasons for NOT Setting Goals

There's a 97% chance you won't particularly like what I'm writing about today.

And a 3% chance you don't really need to read it – although, if you fall into the 3%, you might derive some smug satisfaction from it.

But for the 97% who might find it a bit painful to read, it could be just the wake-up call you need.

You see, I was listening to Brian Tracy's audio program Maximum Achievement recently.

97% is the figure Tracy (and many other professional motivators) apply to the percentage of the population who has yet to write down their goals and put together a strategy to achieve them.

Tracy says "your ability to set goals is the master skill of success." It's so important, he says, because it gives you a clear sense of purpose and a sense of direction in life.

So it's a little surprising that only 3% of the population take their goals seriously enough to commit them to paper.

To help explain why that 3% figure is so low, Tracy lists seven main reasons why people don't set goals in life. I thought they'd be of interest to you, no matter what percentage group you fall into:

  1. They are talkers, not doers– They're not serious. They're not willing to make the effort to make something out of themselves. Tracy reminds us that it's not what you think or say – but what you do that counts. Actions matter, not words.
  2. They haven't accepted responsibility for their lives –Tracy defines a person in this category as somebody who is still waiting for "real life to begin." They use elaborate excuses to justify why they aren't making progress. He says they are content to just buy lottery tickets and watch television every night of the week.
  3. Feelings of guilt and unworthiness– A person who is in a low place mentally and emotionally is not the type of person who sets goals for him or herself. If someone feels like they're not good enough or they're undeserving, they're probably not going to do anything that would change the image they've created of themselves.
  4. People don't understand the importance of goals– If someone's parents never stressed the importance of goals, then it's natural for people to think that goal setting might not be that important. Plus, if a person's friends don't set goals, it's easy to follow along with the crowd and also not set goals. The problem, Tracy says, is that 80% of people are "going nowhere," so by not setting goals, they follow down a similar nowhere road.
  5. Most people don't know how to set goals– Tracy says that even though goal setting is more important to people's future happiness than any course offered, no university or college teaches people to effectively set goals.
  6. Fear of rejection, fear of criticism– At every stage of our lives, from the cradle to the grave, we face criticism and ridicule from others. Sad but true. People are often ridiculed for setting lofty goals – having the nerve to think they can make something out of their life. Tracy says the best way to avert criticism of your goals is to only share them with two groups of people: 1) your boss or your spouse or anyone in your life that you need to help you achieve your goals; and 2) other goal-oriented people.
  7. The fear of failure–Tracy states that the biggest reason people don't set goals is fear of failure. It's easier for people to play it safe by staying in their comfort zone. Fear of failure can paralyze people and prevent them from accomplishing anything good in life.

    He tells the story about the most successful inventor ever, Thomas Edison. Edison was also the inventor who was the "greatest failure." He tried over 11,000 different experiments before he came up with carbon-impregnated filament used in the electric light bulb. About 5,000 experiments in, a reporter asked him why he hadn't given up after failing so many times.

    Edison replied, "Young man, you don't know how the world works. I haven't failed at all. I have successfully identified 5,000 ways that will not work. That just puts me 5,000 ways closer to the way that will."

    Bottom line is that it's impossible to succeed without failing at some point. As someone once said, "If you haven't failed, you're not trying hard enough."

If you're looking to get started on the goal-setting process, a good guide to get you going is Cindy Cyr's article The Only Sure Way to Make Progress This Year.

If one of your goals is to be a writer who persuades people with their words, you might want to check out AWAI's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Or if the idea of working from home writing resumes appeals to you, click here for more information about AWAI's Pro Resume Writer Program.

If you're not sure where you want to be in life right now, the most important thing you can do, as Tracy reminds us, is to take action …

 … and the very first action you should take is to map out your goals and a strategy to reach them.

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Published: April 7, 2011

3 Responses to “7 Reasons for NOT Setting Goals”

  1. Dear Mr. Wood:
    Thanks for the article.
    I've taken steps to ensure my success with this AWAI course:
    1. I read then hand-copy a sales letter once a day.
    2. I've established a filing system, in which to keep and retrieve sales letters and articles.
    3. I annotate the sales letters I study.
    4. I'm keeping a Master Log and filling it with every tid-bit of good advice I can find, along with quotations and snippets from winning sales copy that have taught me something, and that will give me an edge with my own projects.
    So far, so good. Cheers.

    Ethan MarshallJune 20, 2011 at 8:16 pm

  2. Where does the 3% figure actually come from? According to researcher and psychology professor Richard Wiseman he was unable to find any proof that the original study this was based on ever actually happened.

    Guest (Adam Whyte)March 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm


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