For many years, the path to success and happiness has been considered to be setting goals to work towards. It’s a pleasant thought that may seem simple, obvious and straightforward. Success may have been the original idea of goal setting, but I think it has been misplaced and distorted for many different reasons. Success in a business context is efficiency and profit. In order to know whether the goals are being achieved, production measures are needed that can be evaluated. The production industry has developed a complete system for performance measurement. Nothing wrong with that, but when you apply the same system to public administration, to education or to health care, there is a risk that things will go crazy.
It can get even worse when you apply the same theory of goals and performance measurements to individual human beings’ development and life. Individuals can set their goals high out of ambition, but risk being extremely disappointed when the measured result is far from the goals. What are we actually measuring as a result? How do you actually measure entities important to the individual such as knowledge, professional skills, commitment, well-being, meaning in life and happiness?
Can you really measure personal goal achievement with the same standards as in the production industry or economy? One step to avoid the trap of misleading goal setting is to simply replace the goals with a direction. Instead, decide on a direction towards the goal and refrain from regularly measuring goal achievement. Instead, check self-critically if you are on the right path so that you can adjust the direction according to changes in yourself or in the environment. In this way, the disappointment of unachieved goals can be avoided.