This is part of our Rich Habits series, by best-selling author Tom Corley.
Be sure to check out all previous habits we’ve covered!
You hardly ever hear anyone talk about goals in a negative context. Goals are almost always perceived to be good. But there are goals that add no real value to your life when achieved, yet consume valuable resources.
So, how do you know when a goal is good or bad?
Good goals create long-term benefits and long-term happiness when achieved. They allow you to grow as an individual and alter your behavior in a positive way.
Good goals get you from point A to point B. Point B being a better place, such as more wealth, a better job, higher income, a better school system for your kids, etc. An example of a good goal would be to lose 20 pounds. Setting a weight loss goal often involves a daily regimen of exercise, healthy eating and encourages a better lifestyle.
Good health results from exercising and eating right. It may also motivate you to moderate your consumption of alcohol or to quit smoking. When the weight eventually comes off, you enjoy the compliments, feel healthier and all of this creates lasting happiness.
Here are some other examples of good goals:
Becoming an expert – Many successful people are niche experts. They devote time on the side every day to developing an expertise in a specific area within their industry. Niche experts have more value and, thus, make more money.
Starting a side business – Many successful people started their successful business while working for someone else. It is possible to grow a side business while still maintaining your full-time job. This could not only add an additional stream of income, but could also eventually give you the freedom to leave your current job and devote yourself full-time to your business.
Improving the way you look – Many successful people exercise with weights regularly. Lifting weights to build a stronger, healthier body will improve the way you look. When you look good, you feel more confident in yourself. That self-confidence is picked up by others around you, making you even more attractive.
Becoming a speaker – Some successful people are good speakers. Joining Toastmasters or some similar organization in order to develop your speaking skills will benefit you in the long run. Being a good speaker sets you apart from not only the competition at work, but also within your industry. Being a good speaker gets you noticed by others and could mean a better job with more pay and more responsibility.
Becoming a writer – Some successful people write for industry magazines or newsletters. Others write books or have a blog. Starting a blog is an excellent way to develop your writing skills. Becoming a good writer stamps you as an expert on the topics you write about. This opens the door for opportunity and promotions at work, as well as new job opportunities within your industry and additional income streams.
[Editor’s note: as a blogger for 9 years myself, I agree wholeheartedly with this. I had no idea of the amazing opportunities that a blog could bring, nor that it would completely change my life – and career – for the better. It doesn’t always work out of course, but if you enjoy writing and have something interesting or helpful to say, it’s worth the little effort it takes to get a blog going :)]
Bad goals create short-term happiness but no long-term benefits when achieved. An example of a bad goal would be to own a Ferrari. In order to own a Ferrari, you must make more money. Making more money will likely involve either more work or taking excessive financial risk (i.e. gambling). There’s a cost-benefit to working more – you invest time that you will never recoup.
Don’t misunderstand me here. Working more to make more money can be a good thing. But where the goal goes south is when you then spend all that money to buy things, like a Ferrari.
The happiness you derive from owning more, or better, stuff will fade over time since this form of happiness is typically short-term. You will eventually revert back to your genetic happiness baseline – where after a few weeks that Ferrari becomes just a car you drive. The lost time with the family, however, can never be recouped.
If the goal, instead, was to judiciously invest that extra money you earned into a calculated risk, such as a side business, an investment or a vacation home that enables you to spend more time with your family, then it transforms the “work more/earn more” goal into a good goal.
Some other examples of bad goals:
Winning the lottery – Becoming rich by gambling in any way is a bad goal. The odds of winning are remote and costs you money that could otherwise be saved or invested for future wealth creation.
Buying an expensive home – Unless this is a need (i.e. expanding family), buying a bigger house is a bad goal. Bigger houses require more upkeep, higher utilities bills and more in interest that you pay straight to the bank.
Buying an expensive boat – This is another example of a bad goal. Boats are costly and the money you spend on the boat could be better used for funding your retirement plan or building an investment portfolio.
Destroying your competition – When you focus on destroying your competition as a means to increase your own market share, rather than improving upon the products or service you offer, you hurt your business and damage relationships within your industry. Relationships which may have turned into future business opportunities. Engaging in competitive warfare often accomplishes only one thing: reduced profits and burned bridges.
The benefits of achieving a goal should create long-term benefits: a stronger business, more time with family and friends, more knowledge or expertise, financial independence, improved health, and so on. When the achievement of a goal does not improve your life for the long-term, it’s a bad goal. Goals pursued to own more things or to create some momentary pleasure are a wasted investment. Be careful of the goals you pursue. Not all goals are created equal!
Successful people understand the difference between a good goal and a bad goal. They don’t waste their time on goals which do not create long-term success and happiness. Unsuccessful people focus on goals that will not create long-term success. They pursue goals that will give them short-term happiness and immediate gratification.
All previous Rich Habits can be found here. These were the last four in case you’ve missed any:
- Rich Habit #15: Focusing On Your Dreams Every Day
- Rich Habit #14: Seeking Out Success Mentors
- Rich Habit #13: Embracing Only Positive Beliefs
- Rich Habit #12: Never Quitting On Your Dreams
Tom is a CPA and the author of the best-selling book, “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.” He will be sharing a new habit with us every Thursday as part of our Rich Habits Series, and can be found online at RichHabits.net.