Most people accept that setting and achieving goal is a key driver of success. However, goal obsession can lead to exactly the opposite. If you are so obsessed with achieving one goal, you often overlook the bigger vision.
There is a fine line between setting and achieving goals and goal obsession. Let me explain.
In the movie Bridge On The River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson played by Alex Guinness, is a prisoner of war in Burma. He along with other POWs are compelled to build a bridge for their Japanese captors.
The prisoners work as little as possible and sabotage whatever they can. Nicholson is shocked by the poor job being done by his men. As a man of integrity, he is trained to complete any mission to the highest standard. As a result, over the protests of some of his officers, he orders Captain Reeves and Major Hughes to design and build a proper bridge to maintain his men’s morale.
Nicholson drives his men hard to complete the bridge on time for a train carrying important Japanese dignitaries. His fellow officers want to destroy the bridge to prevent the Japanese from using it.
Nicholson discovers the bridge is wired and while attempting to stop his men from reaching the detonator, two are mortally wounded by Japanese fire. Recognizing he was so focused on building the best bridge he could, he forgot the bigger picture which was to win the war. As he detonates the bridge himself, Nicholson exclaims, “What have I done?”
Goals in isolation, creates flaws in strategy, often distorts good intentions and can lead to questionable tactics. Goal obsession can counter your efforts the achieve a long-term vision.
When goals take over your life you think you will be happier when you achieve the goal. For instance, you get the corner office you were always after. Did it make you happier? You made more money or lost weight, at what cost? Did it make you happier?
Sometimes you become so caught up with achieving the goal you neglect other aspects of your life. Family, friends, your health. You start out in one direction and end up in another.
Consider this scenario of a highly paid trader on Wall Street.
“I need to make more money.” He says to his therapist.
“Why do you need to make more money?” asks the therapist.
“I just got divorced for the 3rd time and now I’m paying alimony to three ex-wives. Most of my pay check goes towards supporting them.”
The therapist then asks the trader, “Why do you think your marriages didn’t last?”
“My ex-wives all complained I worked too much and didn’t spend time with them or the family.”
The trader met his goal of becoming a highly successful trader on Wall Street but at what cost? He made money and lost wives.
Goals in isolation don’t work. You need to understand the bigger picture.
Vision Values then Goals
It’s critically important that you put your goals into perspective which is why your vision and values must come before setting goals.
In the examples above, Colonel Nicholson was so obsessed with the goal of building a magnificent bridge, he forgot the greater vision was to win the war. His goal obsession clouded his judgement where he focused on the goal of building a magnificent bridge and not the end vision which was to win the war.
The problem with goal obsession to can lead to questionable tactics.
Let’s say you are a senior manager or sales person and your boss wants 15% growth by the end of the financial year which you know is unrealistic. You start the 4th quarter and realize you are not going to achieve the goal. A difficult goal set by your boss can tempt you into using questionable tactics to achieve a completely different goal, and that is to please your boss and keep your job.
Dogged in your attempt to achieve an unrealistic goal, you become a self-absorbed schemer, how can you achieve the goal so your boss is happy with you? You might lie, cheat, and do whatever you need to achieve the goal.
It’s the same when executives focus on climbing the corporate ladder and stomp on people to get there. They begin as well-meaning executives but their obsession to become successful clouds their judgement. They might start out as ethical well-meaning executives and ended up resorting to questionable tactics to gain power and the spotlight.
Be careful who you stomp on – on the way up, you might need them on the way down.
The reality of business both as an employee and a boss means, you are constantly under pressure to meet weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals. Not everyone responds well to that kind of pressure. In some cases, it becomes a demotivator as the fear of failure kicks in. In other cases, it becomes a detriment to your health.
On a final note
In your own pursuit of goals, make sure it doesn’t lead to a “What have I done! ” moment.
When you start with your vision for the future and tie your goals back to your vision and values. this gives you a solid platform from which to springboard your future success.
By tying your goals back to your vision and values you are far more likely to succeed in all areas of your life.
In a Nutshell
- There is a fine line between setting and achieving goals and goal obsession.
- If you are so obsessed with achieving one goal, you often overlook the bigger vision.
- When goals take over your life you think you will be happier when you achieve the goal.
- Sometimes you become so caught up with achieving the goal you neglect other aspects of your life.
- Goals in isolation don’t work. You need to understand the bigger picture.
- The problem with goal obsession to can lead to questionable tactics.
- Goals can create dangerous expectations which lead to appalling behavior.
- While Dogged in your attempt to achieve an unrealistic goal, you become a self-absorbed schemer.
- You might lie, cheat, and do whatever you need to achieve the goal.