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Setting Goals for Your Life and Career: The Positive and Negative Views

Setting Goals for Your Life and Career: The Positive and Negative Views

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Start a management degree at American Public University.

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

People of my generation were encouraged to set goals, both short-term and long-term. It was very common to be asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If you couldn’t answer the question, interviewers reached the conclusion that you did not have a plan or goals to reach.

Celestine Chua, a writer and founder of the Personal Excellence website, believes that setting goals is important. If you don’t set concrete purposes, you are “sleepwalking” through life and aimlessly wandering from point to point. Setting goals is your first step in achieving your dreams.

Chua suggests the following seven steps to stay on course to realize your dreams:

  1. Take Control of Your Life: Stop running around in circles helping other people and not yourself.
  2. Get Maximum Results: Push yourself to get the best results. “Know that all things are created twice: first in the mind, then in the physical world.”
  3. Create a Laser Focus: Focus on where you should spend your time and energy. Assess whether you are giving ample time to realizing your dream and allocate your resources and time to activities that will benefit you.
  4. Create Accountability: Don’t just talk the talk, walk it. Your goals hold you accountable to you, not to someone else.
  5. Motivate You: To quote Henry Ford, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Drive yourself by focusing on your goals and ambitions. Don’t take your eyes off the prize.
  6. Be the Best You Can Be: Step out of your comfort zone by setting goals that will assist you in achieving your highest potential.
  7. Live Your Best Life: Goals with specific measures and deadlines ensure that you are maximizing your experience on earth. If you have already discovered your life’s purpose, goals will help you get the best out of your mission.

Times have changed since that often-asked interview question about where you expect to be five years in the future. Life’s journey has many paths, barriers and side roads. You no longer have to create a roadmap and stick to it until you reach your destination.

Now, we are encouraged to deal with situations as they present themselves and adjust accordingly. There is no right or wrong as long as we take some action.

Being Too Focused on Goals Has Its Drawbacks at Times

Former award-winning Wall Street equity analyst Whitney Johnson is an expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption. Her view is that in some environments, having a plan of action can hurt more than help. Even if you have a solid plan, she says, keep your eyes open for opportunities.

Sometimes, being too focused limits our imagination as to what we can do. Having an idea and sticking to it can be the kiss of death to the unexpected. The “unexpected” can be the breakthrough that you have been waiting for.

Also, BBC Capital’s Amanda Ruggeri notes the negative aspects of goal setting:

  1. The hype over setting goals is overrated and counterproductive. When a person is rigid in planning and setting goals, there are three potential adverse effects to having tunnel vision with goal setting.

If your focus is on reaching your goals, you may miss out on some of the alternative and more beneficial paths. It is crucial to look to the left and right to determine if there should be a detour on the road to your dreams being fulfilled. Make sure you don’t miss the straight path by taking the crooked road.

  1. People can cross the line and engage in unethical behavior to reach their dreams. Sometimes a person will want the “dream” so bad that she will sell her soul to move forward to the finish line. Don’t sell yourself short. Continue to believe that you are within reach of your destiny without taking shortcuts that could cost you more than you want to give up.
  2. People give up and quit when they feel they have fallen short of their destiny. Failure and setbacks can cause people to abort their goals. Not everyone has mastered rebounding from a roadblock or learned how to go through an obstacle versus trying to go around it. Remember, those things worth fighting for take time, commitment and patience.

Life is like time; it can be very short. We should enjoy the life we have been given and not spend all of our time focusing on reaching goals. It is okay to have goals, as long as they do not consume us, demotivate us or cause us to engage in unethical behavior.

Do not become obsessed with reaching the finish line. By focusing solely on the outcome, you are more likely not to complete the journey. Instead, focus on the “big picture.” Allow yourself to appreciate each step of the journey.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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