Goals are a very accepted and highly promoted way of accomplishing what we want in life.

It’s no wonder so many people advocate and practice goal-setting. Nearly every coach or mentor I’ve encountered and every success seminar I’ve attended advocates setting goals. And not only setting them but writing them down, and making them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely). The argument is that people who write down goals achieve more in life.

However, in his book "Overachievement" Dr. John Eliot paints a very different picture. In his study of high performers, he has discovered they think differently from most people. The traditional focus on goal setting is not what drives them.

He writes:

"It is a myth that success is about setting the right goals and working hard to achieve them. The path to the top is rarely so direct. And the most inspired stories (coincidentally belonging to the happiest people) are about achievements that stemmed from unexpected career twists, events, and discoveries of people open to all the possibilities that life may offer them."

It sounds like taking inspired action may be more responsible for success than setting goals. In the past I have gone through periods where I have set goals, created vision boards, and taken inspired action. I can tell you that with goal setting and vision boards I find myself much more attached to the outcome… almost locked into the results.

For me, that has not been healthy. I also believe it has given me tunnel vision at times. And with tunnel vision you aren’t as open to inspired ideas and the magical results that following them can create. Results that you may never have set as a goal, because they are so outside the box.

Does goal setting influence "success drive" (a term I use in my book, "Breaking the Spell")?

Absolutely. Goals involve focusing on what you want to accomplish in the future. They’re about achieving more. It’s not that goal setting is bad, it’s just another example of the way we’ve been conditioned to always seek more.

I was a victim of relentless goal setting for years. I’d set a goal, achieve it, and immediately set a new goal. I was so busy looking toward the next mountain to climb that I never stopped long enough to celebrate my achievements. That constant focus on the future caused me to burn out. It was also at the root of much frustration, because I was never satisfied with where I was.

I no longer set goals.

Instead, I have a vision of what I’d like to achieve, but I leave the specifics open. I have found this allows me to be more present while still being open to growth. I don’t become so attached to specific outcomes that I drive myself crazy trying to achieve them. Yes, a vision is harder to measure than specific goals, but it can be a much healthier way to manage success drive and feel more fulfilled in your life.

Author's Bio: 

After spending 25 years in the marketing industry, Debbie LaChusa became so frustrated with its "be more, do more, have more" mentality that she began speaking out about it. She wrote a book entitled "Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness" and created the Money Success Happiness blog all in an effort to help others learn how to stop chasing money, success, and happiness and instead discover the true path to a happy, healthy, wealthy life. To read the first chapter of "Breaking the Spell" for free, visit www.breakingthespellbook.com