Are Goals Limiting Your Growth?

It’s still January, which means we still have time to plan major breakthroughs for 2018.  For that reason, the theme of the blog has been on goals and there has been some lively debate as to whether traditional goal setting really works.  You heard from yours truly, along with Michael Kitces and Steve Sanduski on the topic, in a recent post.  This week I’ve asked Josh Patrick to share his thoughts in this guest post.

Josh is the founder of Stage 2 Planning Partners as well as The Sustainable Business. His first book, Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business will be available at Amazon.com on February 6th.  (You can also visit his book site at www.sustainablethebook.com to get a special deal when the book launches.)

Josh is, well, rather clear in his stance.  He hates goals and thinks you should too.  Take it away Josh….


If you know me well, you would say, “Wait, Josh, you’ve been preaching goals for almost 40 years, what’s changed in your life?”

That would be a good question and here’s my answer.  Goals are limiting, and instead of enjoying the trip, you just focus on the end result.  As I’ve gotten older, I find that the trip is more important than the end result and goals limit what you can do.

Here’s a story about goals

My first business was a vending and food service business.  We fed people who worked in factories.

One of the tools of our business was a glass front snack machine where we sold candy, gum, pastries, and chips.  For years, the best we could do is get about $45.00 per stop every time a route driver serviced the machine.  We also let our drivers pick out what went in their machines and insisted that there were 40 separate selections in the machines.

Then, one day one of our customers asked me a really good question, “Why is it that we only have one row of our best sellers which forces my employees to buy stuff they really don’t want?  Why don’t you put several rows of your best sellers in?”

We started down this road and over the course of the next year we went from forty selections in the machines to fifteen selections.  Our sales per service went from $45.00 per stop to over $140.00 per stop, over a 300% improvement.  If I was setting numeric goals for this outcome, which we did, we never made our goal this much.  The best we ever hoped for was getting our efficiencies to $55.00 per stop.

Because we stopped looking at a numeric goal, we were able to go past an outcome I never would have planned for.

Back to why I hate SMART goals.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to plan for positive outcomes.  And, it doesn’t mean I don’t plan for what I want my outcomes to be.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve replaced my goals with:

  • I want to do interesting things with interesting people.
  • I want to help make my clients’ lives better.
  • I want to live a great life.
  • I want to be healthy and have tons of energy.
  • I want to help private business owners take their successful businesses and make them personally and economically sustainable.

When you look at these outcomes, there’s one thing you’re going to notice.  None of them are smart (specific, achievable, results-focused and timebound).  What it does mean is, I’ll know it when I achieve it and you will too.

If you want to spend lots of time reading about goals and outcomes from my Stage 2 Planning site, click here.

If you don’t do goals, what do you do?

Several years ago I ran across Brian Mayne, a Brit who has developed a different way of looking at the world of goals.  He calls his process Goal Mapping.  This is where I learned about planning activities that are not normally associated with goal setting.

You see, in the normal goal setting process you set a numeric goal and start to write down what you need to do to get there.  The problem with this is you just might be, and I could even say probably are, planning for an outcome that is not the most desirable one for you.

The reason is very simple, you forget the most important piece…..why this particular goal is important for you.  You’re also missing the second most important piece, who’s going to help you.  As you’re about to discover, in the goal mapping process, you’re going to integrate both of these missing pieces.

Let’s unpack Goal Mapping one piece at a time.

The four parts of goal mapping are why is this important, what is it that you want to do, who is going to help you get there and how are you going to do it.


If you’ve read or better yet, watched Simon Sinek’s Start with Why you already know the answer to why you need to start with why when beginning a planning activity.  I don’t want you to just start with why, I want you to drill down on why your why is important at least five levels deep.  When you do this, you’re going to find that you get to a root cause for why a particular outcome is important for you.

I find that when you get to this root cause, there’s a very good chance you’ll have an important reason for you to work through the natural roadblocks that will occur as you move towards your outcome.  Without this good reason, there’s a good chance you’ll give up.  Just think back to all of those New Year’s resolutions that you’ve made and broken over the years.  I’m going to bet that many of them just didn’t have a strong enough why to help you move through the challenges you faced.


This is where most people start with a goal-setting process.  And, it’s always the wrong place to start.  In our Stage 2 decision process we ask people to start with a postulate of what they want to do, then dig down into the five why’s and then revisit what it is they want to do.  When you do this, you’re almost always going to find that your original thought of what you want to do isn’t what you should do.

In the goal mapping process, you’ve already started with your first what and that’s the general outcome you desire.  When you drill down on the five whys, you’ll start putting together a compelling reason for you to go after this outcome.


The third step is one that I rarely see used.  In my experience, no one and I mean no one has ever achieved a level of success without the help of others.  Since this is true, you might as well identify who you need help from before you get started.

When you do, these two things will happen.  You’ll be able to ask the people who you want to help you before you get started, and you’ll know how you want them to help.


Finally, we get to how you’re actually going to achieve the outcome that you desire.  For most people, this is one of the first things they tackle.  This is certainly true when one uses a SMART method for goal setting.

I find that by putting how as the last step of my planning process, the how becomes obvious and easy to plan.  Using the goal mapping process, I have a very clear view of my general outcome, why it’s important, what I need to do and who’s going to help.  With all of these issues in place, it’s easy to figure out how I’m going to get there.

Let’s look at how this works in a real-world example.

When I first started The Sustainable Business my outcome was to create a business that was personally and economically sustainable for me.

My why’s were: fun, living an interesting life, economic sustainability for my family and me, having personal freedom and financial freedom.

What I needed to do was: Get three more individual coaching clients, have 5 clients in my backlog waiting to work with me, have six keynote speaking engagements a year, create $400,000 in company revenue and have our website up and running while creating new leads for me. (Although these are specific, they also are guidelines and not hard and fast goals.)

The people who I needed help from were: my assistant, Melissa, the clients I work with, our team of virtual assistants and Hubspot, our client relationship and web marketing tool.

Finally, I got around to how I was going to do this: Create a website, take applications from potential clients who want to work with us. Have alignment conversation phone calls to see if we’re a good match while focusing on our small niche, be mindful about our whys in our planning process, and create specific processes in the company to make sure our service is repeatable and predictable to clients.

This particular goal map was done in the form of a mind map.  If you would like to download the mindmap, click here.

Are you ready to give up SMART goals?

My life has certainly gotten much better when I dropped setting SMART goals and started using Brian’s Goal Mapping process.  My bet is the same will happen to you.  Why don’t you give it a shot and let me know what you think?




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