Barriers to Goal Setting
Take it step by step!
Take it step by step!
Curiously, one of the biggest barriers to goal setting can be too much focus on the bigger picture. It’s one thing to set a challenging, worthwhile goal, it’s quite another to achieve it. Sometimes, what we desire can seem too far away or just too hard to reach.
Of course, there is much written on this site about the importance of leadership with vision, purpose and passion. These characteristics of leadership are essential and we still agree with Henry Thoreau when he said:
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
During the Second World War, author and correspondent, Eric Sevareid was forced to parachute from a damaged transport plane into the jungle on the Burma-India border. Sevareid and the other survivors knew that any rescue attempt would take several weeks so they had no option but to start walking.
They faced a daunting task – tropical heat, monsoon rains and a painful, 140 mile march over mountainous terrain. The torturous route to civilised India seemed almost impassable. The dream of salvation almost impossible.
As Sevareid recounts:
This story is adapted from the “Magic of Thinking Big”, by David Schwartz. Written in 1959, this is a classic positive thinking and self-help book. Central to Schwartz’s argument is the importance of belief. If you believe something is possible, your mind gets to work for you – finding a way to achieve it.
The next-mile principle focuses on achieving smaller goals which then build toward your overall aim. Your vision or dream. It helps to build your belief in what you can do by focusing on short steps, taken one at a time. This a very effective way of overcoming the barriers to goal setting, which sometimes arise from thinking big.
Next-mile thinking stresses the importance of reaching the next achievable goal. What may seem impossible, or extremely difficult, is less so when you break it down to the next step, the next mile. Of course, stretching and worthwhile goals are important and should not be easily given up. Yet, when facing serious difficulty, it’s all too easy to aim for less. The next-mile principle is a great way to counter this tendency. Take purposeful steps towards goals you can achieve.
Secondly, it suggests the solutions, adapted from Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles:
Now ask yourself, “what can I achieve today that gets me closer to my goal?” Regardless of how far away that goal might seem! Overcome those barriers to goal setting one by one!
It’s easy to feel that the current reality is hopelessly far from the vision of your goal. When the tension between current reality and your vision is significant, something has to give. Either your vision or your reality has to change. You can lower your vision and make your goals less challenging, and perhaps less worthwhile. Or you change your current reality, bringing it closer to your goals. These are real barriers to goal setting.
Too often we lower our vision, convinced that the task is just too much. Yet, in reality all we have to do is take things step by step. Perhaps we need to be more like Eric Sevareid and just get to that next ridge or that next village, day by day. Walk that next mile.
Set goals which have meaning and significance for you, even when they may seem difficult to achieve. Think of the next-mile principle as a way to help you achieve those goals.
As a final thought to leave you with, why not aim to become a next-mile leader? Developing your own ability to take the next mile on your journey is perhaps only the start. Make sure you think about your staff and their own barriers to goal setting. Think about how you might encourage them to hold on to their goals. Encourage them to take small steps where they’re needed. Remind them that each day, each step may be all that’s needed to get them closer to these goals.
This can become a powerful means of building self-belief and self motivation in the workplace. Reminding people that ambitious goals are both worthwhile and attainable is another characteristic of goal setting leaders.
To use one of our success quotes:
People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. (Norman Vincent Peale)
Being able to see the bigger picture is an essential leadership quality. However, to be an effective leader, you need something else. Leading with vision also means helping others to bridge the gap between vision and reality. This is done by properly communicating that vision, then by overcoming any barriers to goal setting in order to reach it.
You can find more about the benefits of goal setting in our e-guide: SMART Goals, SHARP Goals. The guide contains 30 pages and 5 tools to help you to set SMART goals, then take SHARP action to achieve them. It includes:
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