The Misery Of Vague Goals

vague cloud
Vague goals is like poor eyesight. We think we are seeing, but it is just a blur we deal with. From William Keckler’s Flickr photostream.

Have you ever noticed the people that are clear about what they are doing and where they are headed? While most people walk around with a vague idea of what they want, highly focused people make progress towards specific goals. Their clarity stands out in a sea of ambiguity and noise.

If it’s one thing that seems hard for human beings to do, it is getting clarity about what we want. It is hard to focus and get clear because of the demands that seem to overwhelm us. Day after day can go by and we can feel the suffocating misery of a desperate existence if all we do is go through the motions without purpose or thought to our steps.

It may not be that we are without goals. Most of us speak the language of goal setting, however, there is a big difference between vague goals and specific goals. We might be content with saying that we want to start a business but the question to make it clear is, “When?” A date, a commitment and telling people makes it public and concrete. There’s a deadline and a clear goal.

Vague goals use qualitative words rather than quantitative metrics.

“I want to run a six minute mile,” is better than “I want to stay in shape.”

“We are going to get $650,000 in revenue,” is better than, “We are going to grow our business and get more customers.”

“We are going to take a family road trip in August to the Grand Canyon,” is better than, “We like to travel and want to see the world.”

Getting concrete and making it known to others helps us to be accountable. Perhaps, that is what scares us about specificity. It makes us responsible and we can know whether we failed or not. Something that is measurable does that to us, for our own good. Using nebulous language means we don’t have to commit. It’s hard to tell if we failed if there is not a deadline or a number to hit. Dreamers get away with fooling themselves with vague goals because they love the idea and emotion of what they are saying.

But dreamers that do, those are the people that deal with themselves and look reality right in the eye. They go into the unknown and fail forward because their mind is clear on the goal.

So what are you still vague on? Stop the tape on your life and proclaim some clear and measurable goals. What are they?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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