Friday, December 19, 2014

Is Goal Setting Destructive? 2742.4 to 2758.8 miles. Entering South Dakota. 12/19/14

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This leg starts in Bowman, North Dakota and heads straight south to the South Dakota border. 


Is Goal-Setting Destructive?


Author’s Note: This post illustrates the discovery process of internal conversations. The original title of the post was “Open-ended Goal Setting.” This topic led to a different question. “Is goal-setting destructive?”

“Coach, you put the words ‘open-end goals’ in my mind this morning. Why did you do that?”

“Road Walker, everyone fixates on time when goal-setting. Sometimes I like to challenge what everyone thinks and ask what if the opposite is also true? How would it affect the process? If I ask you to set some open ended goals, what would be the result? These are open-ended questions and people love to use them. Why don’t they set open-ended goals?

“Coach, I can think of all sorts of reasons why people need to be bound by a time table, but I’ll follow your lead and agree with you for this learning exercise. I’ll try to find some examples.”

Are Goals Necessary?

“Coach, a few seconds after you asked this question, I thought of an example that made me wonder if goals are necessary.

“Road Walker, this is unexpected. Please tell me about it!”

“Coach, I’m too active on Facebook. I counted my activities on Facebook yesterday. There were 14 including likes and responses to posts. I estimate I wrote about 400 words on Facebook yesterday!”

“Road Walker, that’s amazing! You did all that work without any goals?"

“Well, I wouldn’t call it work. Much of it was wasted time. Especially if I include the time reading posts without replying or liking the post.”

“What do you make of this, Road Walker?”

“Coach, it is possible to complete a large amount of activity without goals! This goes against everything I’ve read and practiced on goal-setting.”

“Road Walker, maybe this indicates it’s not necessary to have goals to be productive.”

“There is more, Coach. What do you think would happen if I asked a group of people to complete 70 activities on Facebook in five days? That’s only 14 a day.”

“If I know people, they would put all 70 off to the last day and then miss the target because their cat interrupted their work.”

“Coach, I think we found an instance where a time table results in less activity. In math, one exception disproves a theory. In psychology, the rules aren't as strict as there are always exceptions to a theory in psychology.”

“Road Walker, I just had the thought that the stress of a time table reduces performance. Let’s use a walking example.”

“Coach, I’ll relate this to the original chapter title, ‘Open Ended Goal Setting.’ Maybe it’s better for many people not to impose a time limit or walking expectation each day. This seems like the way to failure, but I can’t argue with the success people have making Facebook posts without goals!”

 Avoidance Behavior May Reduce Performance

“Coach, I asked a question on Facebook and received an interesting response:”

I'm writing a chapter on goal-setting for a book and I could use everyone's help.
How many activities did you do on Facebook yesterday? You can click on the down arrow on the taskbar and then click on the activity log to find out.
At the beginning of the day, how many activities did you plan to do yesterday?’”
“I've done 29 today and I didn't plan to do any at all because I should be packing. The distraction of my near moving miss, sent me straight to FB where I ended up spending too much time! Question to self: is FB a comfort blanket?”
“After I received this answer, I Googled ‘Avoidance behavior.’ I found a good definition here.”

“Avoidance behaviors are the things we do to distract ourselves from an activity or task to which we have associated an unpleasant emotion. Usually, this emotion is fear, which can include such things as worry, anxiety and panic.”

“What do you make of this, Coach?”

“Road Walker, I don’t want to form a conclusion too early as that stops the discovery process. What I will say is if a person is given specific daily walking goals, they may walk less because of avoidance behavior. They may avoid the stress of a not meeting a daily goal by doing something else.”

“Coach, I’ll add something from my own experience. Often I act to avoid pain in the present even though it may cause more pain in the future! It’s irrational, but it’s a common character trait. The ‘Student Paper’ syndrome is an example. Students avoid working for weeks and then do all the work the night before.”

Burning Desire

“Coach, I’ve thought back on my walking progress. I made slow progress for the first 1,800 miles. In fact, I made zero progress in terms of steps a day. I did make physical progress in the sense the mileage base eliminated fatigue and minor injuries. It was only when I wanted to that I suddenly increased my steps by over 50% a day.”

“Road Walking, in the book, ‘Positive Mental Attitude: The Science of Success’ by Napoleon Hill, he says ‘A burning desire behind your specific goal is essential, and you are not going to have a burning desire unless you have a motive that literally sets you on fire.’ Forty-three readers highlighted this passage, so it must be important. Napoleon Hill continues with ten motivating factors for people.”

“Coach, I think is reasonable to say goal-setting is destructive unless a person has a burning desire to set a goal and progress towards that goal. Let’s discuss how to ignite a burning desire.”


1. Discuss the concepts in this post internally with yourself. Share your ideas in the comments if you like. Opposing viewpoints are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Facebook is great avoidance behaviour! You'll be amazed at how many people justify their time there as work! ;). As for goal setting, sometimes we measure the wrong thing. If I measured only my Facebook activity I might feel that I've wasted my time however, if I measure both time spent there and traffic to my websites, I might have a set of data that justifies time spent there... or not :D