Goal-setting is a topic that comes up in coaching quite often. I’ve written on the subject before with regard to setting season expectations and to changing goals when things develop differently. Goals clearly have value, especially when used to map the path forward.
There are ways, though, that goals can backfire. An interesting quote from the book Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker speaks to that issue.
“If dreaming is so bad, why do we do it? Because it’s the mental equivalent of getting drunk: it feels really good right now but doesn’t lead to good things later. That’s exactly what Oettingen’s research showed: while dreaming, we feel good. But dreaming ends up increasing depression later on. Fantasizing gives us the reward before we’ve accomplished the task and saps the energy we need to realize it. More dreams now mean less achievement later. While positive self-talk and optimism can definitely help us not quit, by themselves they don’t guarantee we’ll achieve our goals. Now, dreaming isn’t inherently bad—but it’s just the first step. Next comes facing that awful buzzkill called “reality” and its ever-present obstacles.”
Basically, what the author is telling us is a little bit of dreaming about winning the championship is fine. It’s good for motivation. Anything beyond that, though, can be problematic.
This is an argument in favor of having smaller incremental goals. They tend to be less about fantasizing and more about the work needed to accomplish big things.
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