What’s Wrong with Goal-Setting?

Photo by Kaur Kristjan on Unsplash

What the … ?!

While it can be amusing, it’s also bemusing because surely if you can see the tree, you must be able to ride around it! So, what is happening?

How Goals Work. Or Not.

That focus is crucial because focus is central to how goals work.

Negativity & Fear

This isn’t just a story about the problems with teaching old dogs: instead, it’s a story about the problem with negative goals, which are only made worse by strong emotions like fear. Few things focus attention more effectively than fear, and I was afraid of falling because my weak bones are fragile. Those fears focused me on the road surface, which required a lot of training to overcome.

Managing the Shadow-Side

If all this is true, why is goal-setting so popular in personal, professional, and organisational development? Why is every performance management system rife with goals? Why do we hear people advocating ‘big, hairy, audacious goals’? The reason is simply that goal-setting works most of the time. In any case goal-setting itself is not the real problem: it’s the shift from positive to negative goals that does the damage.



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Arthur Poropat

Arthur Poropat


Arthur’s work on personality, leadership, & performance helps people work together, bringing the best out of each other.