Yesterday, I assigned my students a voluntary overnight project. We had discussed goal setting in class and I wanted to impress upon them the importance of writing down and prioritizing their goals. As I generally find in my classes, only a small number did the whole exercise.
I already know why many of my students failed to follow through on this well-established method for getting what we want out of life. It is the same reason many of us fail to follow through. We say we want to achieve great things, but in the end, we would really rather stay in our comfortable cocoon of low-level misery.
We know from well over a thousand studies that goals work–that is, they lead to high performance. If you want to lose weight, make more money, or achieve anything else quantifiable, goals are the way to do it. Yet we all know how easy it is to get distracted while working on a goal. Why is that?
In my view, there are two major reasons we find it difficult to achieve things. The first stems from what I call a “mind-split.” On the one hand we want to accomplish what we set out to do. On the other, we are afraid that we just might succeed. If we succeed, we show ourselves and the world that we really are capable. It renders null and void all the excuses we used before, and by implication, the excuses we may want to use in the future.
The second hindrance to goal achievement is having the wrong goals. High performance does not necessarily lead to happiness and personal fulfillment. I see this in “achievement junkies,” people who crave the next chunk of conspicuous wealth or yet another trophy in a sport they have grown to despise.
Learning the mechanics of goal setting takes twenty minutes. Learning to set the right goals may take twenty years. As you set out on the great journey that is entrepreneurship, remember that getting what you really want is scary and that getting what you think you want may make you miserable.