Monday, January 2, 2012


One of my dear twitter friends, @Jennifer_Hogan, who has a wonderful blog ( for parents and as I've found, people that work with young people, sent me the following which puts into question the validity of goal setting. 

I thought I'd weigh in with my thoughts and I'll start with this -- I firmly believe in goal setting and it's benefits.  I can speak as to what they have meant for me and the teams that I've been associated with over the years.  When done properly, they can make a significant difference.

They key to the last statement is "done properly."

Writing down a list of goals for the new year and expecting things to happen of course never works.  That is more along the lines of a list of dreams or even miracles.

Goals must be well-thought out...they must be flexible...and they must have an action plan.  Writing them down is important -- but not nearly enough.

I've also evolved to believe strongly in "process goals" as opposed to "destination goals."  Your goals must involve things you can control and not be linked or predicated on things in which you have no control. 

I think as a team it is important to stay away from "numerical goals" like winning 20 games this season.  What happens if due to injuries you find yourself 12-12 with 6 games left to play?  Do you throw the towel in because you can't reach your goal of 20?  What about the other direction?  What if you are 20-4 with 6 games left to play?  No need to work hard to excel at this point -- we've reached our goal.  Can you imagine the Indianapolis Colts setting a goal of winning the Super Bowl this year only to lose their absolute best player in Peyton Manning? Now what -- another team meeting and trying to come up with some more goals?

If you want an in depth look at process-oriented goal setting, here is an outstanding article on Nick Saban when he was the football coach at LSU and how it made a difference in a National Championship Team:

Goals are important because they become a road map to what we'd like to become or where we would like to go.  One of my favorite paradigms comes from Stephen Covey who says we must "begin with the end in mind."  How can we do that without goals?

Someone I greatly respect on the subject of goals is Brian Tracy.  In his book "Goals" he starts Chapter 1 with:

"Success is goals, and all else is commentary.  All successful people are intensely goal oriented.  They know what they want and they focus single-mindedly on achieving it, every single day."

A blog by Corbett Barr ( started the discussion and I think Barr made some valid points that are worth repeating:

"Sometimes goals make us crazy simply because we try to control things that cannot be controlled. We usually can’t control outcomes, but people set goals as if they can. For example, let’s say you set a goal to lose 10 pounds over the next month. Can you really control that specific outcome? What if you do everything you possibly can and still don’t achieve your goal? Outcome-specific goals often set us up for failure."

This goes back to my "process-oriented goals" philosophy and I couldn't agree with Barr more.

Barr also stated:

"Live without goals for a while."

I wouldn't recommend that.  I mean would you take a trip without a map or GPS system -- just jump in the car and see where you go.

The GPS analogy is a great one that our Associate Head Coach Greg Brown outlined for our team at UCF.  Read his thoughts:

Would you want to be operated on by a doctor without goals?  Would you want to be represented in a court of law by an attorney without goals? Would you want fly in a commercial jet with pilots who have no goals?

The problem with goals for many is that accomplishing them requires a daily diet of determination, sacrifice and commitment -- that sounds like work!  And unfortunately we live in a society that is more interested in the now without thought on tomorrow.  Coach Dale Brown refers to it as the "instant gratification syndrome."  I want what I want and I want it now.

Setting and achieving goals is not easy.  It takes thought and work to develop your goals -- and then to continually evaluate and develop them.

Here is another downside of goals -- sometimes you don't reach them.  This is a turn off to some as well.  Far too many people today spend time trying to avoid failure as opposed to embracing it and learning from it.  Failure is an extremely important tool for success.

Goals are important.  I can't imagine where our nation would be without them.  But like I said, they aren't easy.  You just can't write them down and expect them to work.  In fact, here is a list from Brian Tracy on a seven step process for achieving goals:

First, decide exactly what you want in each area of your life. Be specific!

Second, write it down, clearly and in detail;

Third, set a specific deadline. If it is a large goal, break it down into sub-deadlines and write them down in order;

Fourth, make a list of everything you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal. As you think of new items, add them to your list;

Fifth, organize the items on your list into a plan by placing them in the proper sequence and priority;

Sixth, take action immediately on the most important thing you can do on your plan. This is very important!

Seventh, do something every day that moves you toward the attainment of one or more of your important goals. Maintain the momentum!

This is the first part of a series of posts on "Goal Setting" and the next one I will be more detailed in regard to what has specifically worked from me and some of our teams.