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Why goal setting can ruin your life and your business

We live in a world where acquisition, achievement and career success have become all important. This has been supported by our innate desire to have more and be more in life.

A whole movement which studied the psychology of success, whether its achieving our personal goals or our business goals, has taught us that the only way to “succeed,” is to set clearly defined goals. Having set these goals, they are achieved by focusing unwaveringly on their achievement and taking action, often daily, to achieve those chosen outcomes. And this would apply just as much to our marketing goals as it would to anything else.

But the truth is – not only is the outcome not guaranteed, but the very process could be ruining our lives.

There is no doubt that the human mind is hugely powerful and if you consistently focus your mind on a chosen marketing goal, there is a possibility that you will achieve that outcome. This may take some time, but with patience and a sense of determination, you might well get there.

For a few, this approach has brought success and financial gain, but for many it has led to disappointment, wasted money, frustration and misery as intended goal after goal has not materialised.

So why is this? Why is goal setting able to ruin your life?

Marketing (and other) goals are most often set in the hope that your business will be better with the attainment of that goal. For many wanting to improve their business, setting specific marketing goals offers them a way of trying to make their business lives more rewarding and under their control.

Yet the realisation soon comes that even with their chosen achievement, they are no happier or fulfilled. How many times have we got that new client only to find that we are still no happier? From here the solution seems to be to set another goal, and a bigger goal at that, in the often desperate hope that this will bring the happiness we crave. In time, goal setting creates an almost never ending cycle of desire all in the search for a seemingly elusive thing.

Another problem with using goals to try to make us feel better inside is that we often do create for ourselves things that are not really right for us as an individual and that are not really in alignment with who we inherently are as a person. We think we want a bigger house yet when we get it and see the reality of maintaining this bigger house and garden, we realise that it is not really quite us. It can actually become a burden on us rather than a pleasure, and impose some considerable strain on us on many levels.

In addition to this, many people set marketing and career goals that are a result of what they think they should want or should have. They set goals based on what their peers have or what their peers are doing, or based on what they are being “encouraged” to do by others. It takes quite a lot of singularity of mind not to get caught up in this subtle peer pressure or that says you should have this position by a certain age.

What often happens when we are intent on creating a certain outcome is we miss that very thing that really is for us to have, that really would make us happy. With the strength of our focus on our marketing goals we fail to see the opportunity that is right in front of us because it is not what we have chosen to look for.

The reticular activating system of our mind helps us to notice those things that lead us to our chosen focus and can actually prevent us from noticing other signs and coincidences from the Universe along our way, signs that really are trying to help and guide us.

So many people miss out on what is inherently for them by having this narrow focus that things should be a certain way. Furthermore, our logical, rational approach to our goals leaves no room for intuition, inspiration and creativity as we forge ahead on our “chosen route.” And this is the very crux of the problem, it is our chosen route, it is about what we want, and that is very often at odds with the chosen route that we Universe has mapped out for us.

For many people, marketing goals are sought after with much pushing and striving. We have been taught that to achieve them we must “take massive action”,” make life happen” and “take the bull by the horns” so we try to do this, often to no avail.  

This approach based purely on what appears to be the logical steps to take to achieve something can lead us to be very driven, very manipulative and often very unaware of the effect we are having on those around us.  It adds often to our stress levels as we chase and push to achieve our outcomes, always thinking what else can we do to achieve this. The Protestant Work Ethic that taught us that we are here to “live to work” fuels our ardour as we push ever forwards in the hope of achievement.

With this self focused approach, at no time do we stop for a moment and ask what are the consequences for our families, our marriages or relationships, our friendships, our business, and also the consequences for our health of all this pushing to “make life happen?”

For many people that I have worked with as a coach, they have lost much that they hold dear as a result of this desire to be successful - as defined by their goal setting and the material world. They have lost marriages, relationships with their children and friendships all in the name of goal achievement and success.

On reflection this endless goal setting has made them, they acknowledge, lose touch with what is really important in life. They have lost out on love, connection, intimacy, and a host of other values that come with good relationships. Many high achievers are coming to realise that these really are the things to value...and sometimes when it is too late.

However, the biggest problem with goal setting is what happens to the many people who, despite doing all the right things, do not achieve their goals. They do not get to where they want to be or have what they feel they deserve and want.

The disappointment and disillusionment this causes is hugely detrimental. It leads us to be very self denigrating, self critical and self undermining. The self talk that we get into about the way we are and the way life is, can significantly lower our levels of self esteem and self worth. It makes us see ourselves and life through a very negative lens that effectively states “life is not fair.”

We see things working out for others in our team and wonder what it is that they are doing that we are not doing. This endless comparison erodes our levels of self appreciation so that we often feel a failure. And the difficulty is that from that place it is really is hard to lift out of the depression and low feelings that invade us. Stress and depression are moving towards epidemic proportions these days and for many goal setting and the failure to achieve is at the root of this.

So what is the solution to all of this? The good news is that there is an alternative approach to reaching our potential and achieving our goals – including those related to the marketing of our business.

The answer comes by taking a different approach to your marketing opportunities and all that it can hold for you.

Within all of us is a sense of inner wisdom that can be used to guide us in every aspect of our life including being successful at work or in business. It can guide us to achieve all that is for us to achieve; it can inspire us with new ideas and options that we had perhaps not considered and it can be used to guide us in the creation of our dreams. And by dreams I mean those ideas and often random synchronicities that come us to that inspire us to act on them. They are not goals that we set, but are ideas that well up from inside us, that just come to us and take hold of us. These dreams feel right, they energise us and they are totally in alignment with who we are.

Most importantly of all, our inner wisdom can guide us in how to be happy in our life, career and business as it has our fulfilment at its core. This innate wisdom really can see the bigger picture of our lives as well as our talents and skills and it gives us these gifts of creative insight at just the right time. And often all we have to do is ask is “What is the Universe offering me right now?” “What things are happening naturally and easily for me at this moment?” It may be that right now there is no action to take, no dream to act on and if we can accept that everything is perfect for us, then we really are acting in alignment with Universal flow.

What gets in our way of following this natural course of events is our desire to control our lives and what happens within it. Rather than accepting what is, we try to fight against it and it is that very fight against life and the circumstances in our marketing career that can lead to much stress and negative thinking. The Universe really does have an intelligence of its own and if we can join that universal intelligence, which for some is their innate Spiritual Intelligence, then life takes on an ease. We come to recognise that every situation is perfect for us, perfect for our growth and perfect for the Universal plan as a whole.

So, my advice is to stop setting marketing goals and stop striving to achieve those goals and let your instincts guide you in the right direction. You will feel happier, less stressed, and certainly more fulfilled.


About Sarah Alexander
Sarah is an expert in Spiritual Intelligence and has worked with 100s of clients worldwide helping them tap into their intuition and use it make decisions in their lives – both personally and professionally.

Sarah also runs courses and workshops for coaches entitled “Spiritual Intelligence in Coaching” that train existing and potential coaches to work with clients using the principles of Spiritual Intelligence.

Sarah has used Spiritual Intelligence successfully to build her first business which she sold in 2001 and then used it again to build her current business helping clients, including business executives , international sports competitors and entrepreneurs to bring them success.

Sarah’s book “Spiritual Intelligence in Business: the Eight Pillars of 21st Century Business Success” is available from Amazon, all good book retailers and from Sarah’s web site.
For information on Sarah’s coaching and workshops go to: