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Are Goals Necessary?

I asked that question on our Facebook page recently, and got a lot of great responses.

Technically, I asked “Are goals necessary to achieve success?” – a lot of people accurately said that it depends on how you define success. I agree.

But let’s say that success includes working toward something other time, whether a career goal, a relational goal, or strictly a personal project.

Are goals necessary in the crafting of a meaningful life? Here are a few responses from the group:

Maggie Dodson: Sometimes goals can be manufactured to convince ourselves and others that we ARE busy doing what we should be doing. Better we follow the feeling, the passion, and walk towards the dream.

Angela Stauder: No – but defining direction/trajectory is. Pick a point on the horizon and keep moving toward it. Define the method of travel (boundaries, values, key actions). Sometimes it is important to get clear on what success looks like. There is no one perfect formula that fits every situation. The wisdom and skills to navigate are critical.

Yoshiko Inagaki: I think one needs to have a Vision. Then out of that Vision emerges Goals, but stay organic with the how-to-reach-the-goals.

Carlos Araya: If you don’t have goals how would you know how far you’ve gone?

Kyle McHattie: Yes. If you don’t know what you want, you have no focus. Without focus you wander aimlessly and are ineffective. You need goals to achieve success.

John Saward: I’m reminded of Spike Milligan’s snippet of wisdom: “We haven’t got a plan so nothing can go wrong!”

Derek Kei Lap Cheng: Goals are not necessary to achieve success, but they sure do help MEASURE success.

My favorite of all responses, though, came from Barbara Winter, who for some reason reads this blog even though she could write it much better than me. Here’s what Barbara had to say:

Most people would think it ridiculous to walk into an airport with a wad of cash, hand it over to the ticket agent and say, “Send me someplace.” Goals are simply chosen destinations that we’ve decided are worth the trip. Without them, somebody else may be deciding on the itinerary for us.

I won’t try to add much to such wisdom. Just one thing –

I’d never say that everyone needs to set goals, but I do notice that some of the objections to goal-setting always focus on “living in the present” and not letting life pass you by due to being too focused on goals.

My view is that the odds of life passing you by are much higher if you have no plan for life itself—which is why I like Barbara’s analogy. You’re not going to miss anything! In fact, you’ll probably have the opportunity to give and receive more than you would otherwise.

That’s my $0.02. But what do you think … are goals necessary? How has goal-setting worked (or not worked) for you?


Image: Angie