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The Bright Side of Goal-Setting

Elle at Couple Money recently referred me (indirectly…thanks, Twitter) to an article entitled The Dark Side of Goal-Setting at PsyBlog.  While the first few paragraphs of the story made me think it was flying in the face of everything I’d come to believe about the importance of goals, it actually rounded out to make some fine points that I hadn’t necessarily considered.

Goals, the article argues, have become too much of a centerpiece in our culture.  (“How dare you say such a thing to a personal finance blogger!” thought I.)  The prevalence of goals is dangerous not because goals themselves are inherently a bad idea or an ineffective tool, but because people are told simply that they need goals, not how to set them.

I know I’ve always been told not to set general goals, but this article points out that setting goals that are too specific may cause you to lose sight of whatever broad goal those smaller ones are meant to work toward.  I suppose I’ve done that before.  (Exhibit A:  didn’t I go to school for fiction writing?)  Also, being a person who has tried to set goals for every aspect of his life, I was dismayed to read the very valid point that too many goals may cause you to prioritize based on ease of accomplishment rather than actual importance.  I know I’m guilty of this.  (Exhibit B:  not updating my blog for a period of six months last year.)

So, the article argues against institutionalized, general goal-setting and encourages informed, personal, flexible goal-setting…so long as wrestling with said goals doesn’t dominate your life.  I don’t know how willing I am to back off of my goals so soon after I’ve gotten back into the habit of living by them again (Exhibits C and D:  decreasing credit card debt and increasing pile of stuff to get rid of).  That’s the “Bright Side of Goal-Setting”…when I’ve fallen out of a goal-pursuing mode, I think in general I’ve suffered for it.  But the article certainly gives me something to think about.

What do you think?  Have you ever set goals only to fail to meet them for some reason or another?  Or are you more like me, where even if your goals aren’t necessarily properly or even decently organized, you don’t function as well without them?

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