Is goal setting over-rated?

rugby-imageAsk any successful business person, athlete or actor how they reached the top and they’ll invariably talk about goal setting. Set a goal, outline a plan, follow that plan and your dream will become a reality.

While I’m not against setting goals, I do think it’s an oversimplification to suggest that whatever we aspire to can come true – if only we identify it and plan accordingly.

My youngest son discovered this in his final year at high school.

He had been a goal setter from a young age and up until then, aiming for and achieving goals had worked for him. His goal in primary school was to be school captain, so he went for it and got the position. As a teenager he worked towards various school and sporting goals, which he achieved. It’s a great way to approach life and achieve things we may not have thought possible.

His first real experience of not achieving a goal was when he tried out for his school’s senior rugby team and, following months of off-season training, wasn’t selected to play his chosen position in the school team.

He was angry, upset and frustrated by this decision, particularly as he had been chosen to play the same position in a district team. It was the first time he hadn’t achieved a goal that he’d worked so hard towards.

It was unfair and I told him so. However, life is unfair. No-one likes to see their child suffering but I think it’s an important lesson for all of us. As much as we want something and work hard for it, there is no guarantee we will achieve our goal.

And this is true regardless of whether it is school-boy rugby or a life ambition.

An athlete who has trained for years can be sidelined by an injury just before an important race or match. An entrepreneur may have a great idea and work hard to establish his or her business, yet their enterprise still fails. An actor or singer may be highly talented but never achieve their dreams, simply because someone else is even more talented (or in the case of our image-conscious society – better looking).

So, do we give up on goal setting? Certainly not. Without goals and a desire to improve, we’re just cruising through life aimlessly. However, we do need to be realistic. We’re not going to achieve everything we want in life, but the journey often teaches us more about ourselves than the destination.

And the occasional ‘failure’ teaches us a couple of things. We appreciate the successes because we know the fine line between making it and not quite making it. We also learn to be strong in defeat.

Attitude is everything – if you can make the best of a bad situation, you are a success. And making the best of every opportunity should be our ultimate goal.

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