Setting Goals: This—Or Something Better!

Think BigI started with a new client today and we talked about setting goals.

My client expressed reservations about goal setting. In the past he had articulated a vision for what he and his business would accomplish, but then a lot of interesting things happened that resulted in his taking his business in a completely different, wonderful direction. He said he didn’t want to be penned in.

And you know what? I totally understand that. When I first learned about goal setting, I had the same reaction: so many of the extraordinary things in my life seemed to happen by magic.

But since I learned about goal setting, I have accomplished much more than I could have imagined. And I have seen the way the universe seems to line up behind people who communicate a clear vision and set specific goals to get them moving toward its realization.

So how to deal with this feeling of being hemmed in?

Well, first, set big goals. If your goals are big enough, there should be no reason to feel hemmed in by them. James Cameron says “If you set your goals ridiculously high, and fail, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” This has certainly been my experience.

For example, I set a goal to write and publish a New York Times bestseller. So I wrote a book and got it published. It was not a New York Times bestseller, despite the best efforts of my co-author and me. But I wrote a darn book. And got it published. That is so much better than not writing a book.

Second, if you still have the feeling you might be limiting yourself—or the universe—there is a little trick you can use to manage that feeling. I learned it from my colleague Cheryl Richardson.

Next to each goal that you create, write: This, or something better.

This statement acknowledges that, although you take full responsibility for creating great things in your life and are the captain of your own ship, you are open to any ideas and assistance that may come your way. It opens the door for happy accidents and pleasant surprises. It means you don’t always have to have all the answers—that answers sometimes come from somewhere else.

I cannot explain why it is so, I just know that clarity of purpose and action are rewarded. Confusion and inaction are not. So set an almost-ridiculous goal—and then say This or something better. Get moving. Anything is possible.

About the Author

Madeleine BlanchardMadeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

4 thoughts on “Setting Goals: This—Or Something Better!

  1. Whether individual or corporate if you’re not working on a set of goals you’re rudderless in a sea of opportunities. Gary Gruber

    The origin of BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal:
    “A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”
    — Collins and Porras, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” 1994

  2. Something better may also be defined as something different.

    In his song “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, Willie Nelson says this:

    “He ain’t wrong, he’s just different”

    Sometimes, different is better.


  3. Always love the blog. I’m wondering how this fits with goals being “achievable” and “measurable”? I.e., was the goal to Write a NYT Bestseller achievable? How do you measure completion of that goal? Applying that to helping employees set goals in an everyday work environment, if all employees’ goals become super lofty, do we potentially lose focus? Many thanks! JM

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