Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work For Everybody

by PJ McClure on May 6, 2013

goals22Bad goals are a plague on society!

People are constantly setting goals because that’s what we are told to do. It’s like we all need to go to a meeting for it…

“Hi, I’m PJ McClure… and I’m a recovering goal setter.” (Hi PJ)

We’ve had goal setting pounded into us for decades and we’ve all heard quotes like…“A famous Harvard study showed that successful people have goals.” No kidding…we needed Harvard for that?

But it goes to show that we haven’t fully grasped the power and importance of goals. So next, we hear that our goals must have a certain structure in order to accomplish them. The S.M.A.R.T. method is the most popular and useful in structuring a goal, but it doesn’t make the goals any more attainable by itself. If I have a bad goal, I can’t make it smart enough to matter.

The acronym is broken down:
S –specific

All great elements, but millions of people can attest, this alone does not help them achieve goals.

I want to make sure that I’m clear. Just because I said that bad goals are a plague on society and the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting, or any other, isn’t enough to carry a bad goal to accomplishment doesn’t mean I don’t believe in traditional goal setting models or goals in general.

I believe goals are very important and every successful person I’ve ever met or studied makes a regular practice of setting goals of some sort. But I contend that traditional goal setting focuses in the wrong places and is incomplete. Most people do not have trouble with the structure of setting a goal. They fail because they don’t choose the right goals or understand what must be in place to achieve a goal.

I’ve worked with thousands of people, myself included, who spend hours setting their goals, but never spend the time to figure out what it will look like or why they even want it. When asked, few have ever considered what they want from achieving a goal (aside from the easy surface answer) and most are still hung up on the last goal they set and failed to reach.

When we decide to set a goal it’s okay to begin with the goal itself. But when you have a goal in mind, the next step is not to worry about the S.M.A.R.T. structure. The first key is to make sure the goal is right by running it through the S.W.I.T.CH. formula.

Can you SEE IT? Do you have a clearly defined picture of the goal accomplished? Without a vision, you are less likely to recognize opportunities to realize the goal.

WHY do you want it? Go below the surface… is there a strong reason for the goal? Is it powerful enough to push you through the rough patches?

Have you granted yourself IMMUNITY to pursue it full out? Are you questioning your ability to make it happen because of past failures? Are you willing to allow yourself to stub your toe, bloody your nose, and keep going without regret?

Do you TRUST yourself? You see the vision and know why it’s important. So do you believe that you can accomplish the end goal? Can you answer with a resounding, confident, and honest, “YES” to every step along the way?

Are you ready to CONQUER the steps that get you there? When we know where we want to go, why we want to go there, and feel free to move… we have move! Taking action gives us victory and fuels life.

HONOR your life as you go. Are you actively looking for gratitude in your life? Do you celebrate each small victory along the way?
There are deeper levels to SWITCH, but these initial steps can create greater awareness for you about your goals and why you struggle or succeed.

You can get a copy of my Goals Guide for free and make goal setting work for you! Just click here and you’re on your way.

Be your best,


Jasmine@GoalsOnTrack April 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Just want to add a goal setting resource to compliment your post here. It’s a goal setting app called GoalsOnTrack and it has worked very well for me. It saves me a lot of time in keeping track of my goals and most importantly it helps me better organize my daily todos towards achieving my goals.

Georgina April 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

Hi PJ!
Your advice and guidance is awesome. It has made me think in a way that I have never thought before. I am always setting goals and never reaching them…burning out before I reach the goal and then beating myself up because yet again I failed. Reason – I never dug down deep to see what the burning desire was. Since I have been reading articles and am working on your book “Flip the Switch” and the workbook my thought process is changing. I’m asking myself many questions – why do I want this? can I achieve this? and so on.
Thanks so much for sharing! I look forward to digging deep and reaching my goals in a new, achievable way!

PJ McClure April 14, 2011 at 8:21 am

Right on Georgina!
You’ve made my day and hope you’ll continue to let me know what is happening for you. This is why I do what I do!
Be your best.

Peter Wright April 14, 2011 at 6:11 am

As always, good stuff PJ. I did buy your Flip the Switch book when you released it and It is good.

Here is a question that I have wanted to ask you for a while.

Why is it easier to maintain the commitment to achieving a physical goal than a business goal.

In my case, some years back, never having been an athlete in my younger days, I started running. Then I set a goal of running an arduous 85 km (50 mile)ultra marathon within the allowed time of 11 hours.

Despite a high level corporate career involving travelling, heavy business lunches and late nights, I stuck to my training schedule and completed my first ultra in 9hrs 20minutes, 2 1/2 years after starting running, then did the same race 3 more times and many others.

That goal was not written down, it didn’t have to be, it was a burning obsession that drove me to get up at 4 am and run 6 days a week even if I had only got to bed a couple of hours before.

It was at times physically exhausting, extremely painful and the huge training distances I ran probably led to deterioration of my knees.

So there was no material gain, no extra money in the bank, no reward at all except the achievement of completing a race that very few people can accomplish.

Yet, in many ways, despite the pain, that was easier than achieving some of my business goals.

Does it have something to do with the simplicity of running? Just put one foot in front of the other and keep on doing it.

PJ McClure April 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

Great questions Peter.

My first instinct is to say that it isn’t necessarily easier to accomplish a physical goal than a business goal. The difference is in the desire, clarity, and willingness (aka: purpose, vision, and belief).

I won’t suppose to know your foundational desire for training, competing, and finishing that ultra marathon (my legs hurt just thinking about it), but I can guarantee that you were clear and driven to make it happen. Your phrase “Despite a high level corporate career involving traveling, heavy business lunches and late nights,” tells me enough to know that you don’t have that same foundational support of your business goals.

The ultra marathon tapped a part of you that had been suppressed in one way or another for most of your life and allowed you to do something that connected directly with your soul. When you find a way to connect your business (or any other goals) in that same foundational way, you’ll find them just as easy to achieve.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: