Why do so many of us “goal-seeking animals” fail to set goals?  After all, one of the common criticisms about modern consumer cultures in first-world nations is that people waste their time in mindless activities, without using their substantial talents.  We spend hours in front of the television.  We work at jobs we hate. We eat, drink, and medicate ourselves into stupor.

There are, of course, numerous explanations. I list some below, as well as my thoughts about each.

Lack of Ambition. We can start, of course, with the fact that some people are content to waste their lives.  Some people lack personal, professional, societal, and spiritual ambition.  I presume that you’re reading this because you are not one of those people.  If you’re reading this blog, however, chances are you at least want to achieve.

Skepticism. Some people don’t think goals work.  They have never tried to have goals, and no one has ever explained how to do it, and no one has ever explained that solid research shows that properly-constructed goals work.  Yet, as explained in earlier posts (here, here, and here), there is no doubt that using the right process to set goals will increase the ability to achieve.

Fear of Failure – or Success. Some of us, no doubt, are afraid.  We may be afraid that if we set goals and do not achieve them, we will be disappointed.  Or we may (ironically) be afraid that we will achieve what we say we want, only to find out it is not nearly as good as we expected.  What happens if our dreams come true, but they suck?  Fear, no doubt, is a powerful force, but research shows that those who don’t so much overcome fear as accept it and act despite it will, over time, achieve greater fulfillment.

Fear of Criticism. Some fear criticism.  We may have been raised to look down upon those who are openly ambitious, who don’t know their place, or who are “achievers.”  We might likewise fear the voices of doubt—parents, spouses, siblings, and so-called friends who themselves are stuck and who may not want us to succeed. Yes, there will always be critics.

Potential Negative Consequences. Some fear that goals will cause stress, excessive risk-taking, over-emphasis on goal areas to the detriment of other aspects of life, or short-range thinking.  Or perhaps they believe that goals will create ceilings—that accomplishment of the written objective may lead the achiever to rest there, instead of setting and meeting higher standards. Goals can, in fact, lead to each of these consequences.  It is useful to be alert for any of these, and I will write elsewhere about ways to combat such potentially adverse effects.

Lack of Self-Awareness. Some of us fail to have goals because we lack self-awareness.  We don’t know what we want, either in the immediate future, or the next few years, or with the balance of our lives.  We may never have sat down and attempted to rigorously think through what skills we have, what skills we’d like to have, what we’d like to do personally and professionally, and what goals we’d like to have in these and other areas of our lives.  In other posts on this blog, however, I have provided detailed, simple instructions for beginning the process of evaluating one’s self, in order to achieve one’s objectives.

Lack of Methodology. Still others may lack a sound methodology.  They may have tried to set goals in the past, but they have not found a way that works.  The goals don’t motivate, or they get lost in the daily shuffle of life.  Sound research, however, has provided guidance about how to make goals that work.  Those findings in the posts on this blog pertaining to goals.

Inhibiting Creativity?  Some of us consider ourselves creative, and believe that rigorously developed goals would inhibit the supposed spontaneity and spiritual nature of the creative process.  Yet creativity research utterly refutes this notion.  Creativity requires boundaries, which the artist uses to achieve creative effect.  Even Picasso is said to have emphasized that “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Going with the Flow – or Steeped in Despair. Finally, some of us don’t think we need goals.  “Things will work out,” some of us tell ourselves.  Maybe things have come easy in the past, or maybe we believe that it would be too uptight to actually sit down and write our goals.  Or maybe, instead, we despair of being able to achieve any goal we set.  Perhaps we have achieved a state of learned helplessness, where it seems that no matter what we try to do, we are stymied.  But no matter how easy or how hard things have come in the past, making goals increases achievement.  The research is clear and unambiguous.

Technorati – N97AKRPEF7NT

I have a spouse who is unsupportive and combative.