When it comes to personal and professional goal setting, most of us will likely fall somewhere on the range shown below:

  • You Don’t Set Goals At All – Maybe your firm doesn’t have a goal setting process, or you choose not to participate in it, or you don’t understand why goal setting is important
  • You Set Goals Aimed At Minimum Performance - Goals need to stretch you. They need to big and hairy and scary. Minimum performance goals are the same as not setting goals at all
  • You Set Too Many Goals - You want to do it all, have it all, and be all things to all people. This results in overwhelm, lack of focus, and the same result as not setting goals at all
  • You Set Goals That Are “Squishy” – You have 2 to 3 “stretch” goals, but they are not specific, not measurable, without time limits, and likely to drive the same result as not setting goals at all

Why do most of us fall short when it comes to effective goal setting?  I would like to suggest three reasons:

  1. First, we are all challenged with the idea that If we don’t set goals at all, no one, including ourselves, will notice that we’ve fallen short
  2. Second, while some of us do engage in some form of annual goal setting , we don’t understand what is required to set “effective goals”
  3. Third, we may actually know how to set effective goals, but haven’t established a “return and report” process with interim actions steps and milestones to help us accomplish them

I would like to explore the first reason – what I’m calling “fear of success” - with plans to return to the second and third reasons in future blogs.

Why do most of us habitually or intentionally procrastinate when it comes to setting goals?  Many believe this is due to our common fear of failure or looking bad. But according to American author, speaker and performance expert, Dennis Waitley, Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now.”

Why would any of us fear a “good thing” like success?  Maybe because it means we’ll be given more responsibility to continue building on what we have achieved.  Maybe because success brings promotion and an ever increasing level of challenge and expectations.  Or maybe it’s because achieving success requires us to change what we’re doing and how we do it, and most of us don’t like change because it is hard work.

Our fear of success drives a believe that life will be better and easier if we stay where we are and keep doing what we’ve been doing.  But if we continue down the “safer” path of inaction and procrastination, don’t we run the greater risk of allowing someone else to define our success for us?  Unhappily, the answer to that question is yes.  As American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, said “If you don't design your own plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

When we fear something, the natural result is to move away from it. The same is true for our success – if we fear it, we will probably not achieve it.  Engaging in the goal setting process helps us to embrace success by asking “What does my success look like?”, and defining the path and the actions required to achieve it.

 An important aspect of the goal setting process is sharing your goal with someone else.  A goal really doesn’t become an effective goal unless it is written down and shared.  It is amazing how much closer you come to achieving your goals by investing the time to do this.  In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.

We will continue to help our clients succeed through effective goal setting, by asking “Who’s Afraid of Success?”  In the meantime, if you have ideas or experiences on this subject, please post them so others can benefit.  Thank you!

Best regards,