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A Potential Pitfall of Goal Setting

August 1, 2023

I love goal setting. 

I see the value of it from a business perspective daily as I work with our ADDO team. Setting goals for sales and customer service metrics provides our team specific targets to work toward. 

I also experience the value of goal setting in my personal life and the lives of my family members and friends. Big goals like getting out of debt, committing to run a marathon (someone else, not me!), working to lose weight, and reading a certain number of books a year help us use our time intentionally to grow. 

Leadership guru Zig Ziglar famously said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

And even author Mark Twain gave his two cents about goal setting: “Without dreams and goals, there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”

No one would deny the fact that goal setting is important and valuable. Yet, I think most of us don’t consider one potential pitfall that leads committed goal-setters to feel dissatisfied. If we only spend time measuring ourselves against where we want to be instead of where we’ve come from, we can live in a state of perpetual discontent.

Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, calls this problem the gap and the gain. The gap is the distance between where we are now and where we want to be. The gain is where we’ve come from and what we’ve accomplished so far. Dan explains the strange paradox between high achievers and a constant level of discontent. Can you relate? I know I can!

One option to avoid feeling discontent is to simply not set goals. That’s a bad idea. 

Dan’s advice is to keep setting goals, but to take time to measure yourself against where you were, not where you want to be. 

Your business is not where you want it to be, but look at how far you’ve come.

You haven’t hit your weight loss goal, but look at how much you’ve lost.

You haven’t hit your sales goal yet, but you are on track to surpass it by year’s end.

You aren’t running as fast as you want to be, but you are much faster than you were last year!

Your customer service ratings still need improvement, but they are moving in the right direction.

It’s good and proper to set your sights on the future. But it’s also important to enjoy the things you have accomplished and the ways you have grown. We must do both. 

So here’s my advice: Set the big goal and celebrate the small wins along the way.

Set the big goal and celebrate the small wins along the way.


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