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By David Harder on November, 27, 2017

Why Goals Don’t Work

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”


           Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are at that magic time of the year where we look to the past and make plans for the future. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it is wise to take a close look at the difference between goals and commitments. Humans have a wondrous capacity to play games with goals. Many years ago, I turned against them.


I spent much of my early professional life as a sales manager. I was a leader in three multi-national companies and one boutique. During those twelve years, I was responsible for goal programs. These included annual, bi-annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals. I was also responsible for corporate, regional, branch and individual goal programs. Everywhere that I went, I asked my people for their goals and I noticed a strange phenomenon. 5 to 10% of my consultants produced approximately 90% of the revenue. Confident in their job security, these individuals were too busy to participate in goal discussions. They were closing deals, running to meetings, and taking calls. The remaining consultants that generated 10% of the revenue had beautiful and carefully crafted goals. Something was askew. What was driving the people who exceeded quotas? It clearly wasn’t our goal programs.


As I was questioning traditional goal programs, the Los Angeles real estate market was in one of its most heated states. Buyers were flying into our market to place bids on houses. In the tony neighborhoods, some homes were gaining double-digit value in a month. During this time we witnessed the emergence of the “rock-star” agents such as Fred Sands, Gayle Wilson, Mike Glickman, and Jeff Hyland were pulling in seven-figure incomes. The Los Angeles Times Magazine ran a cover story about the “Platinum Triangle,” golden neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Bel-Aire, Malibu, and Brentwood. The article quoted the average income of agents in this market during the biggest growth spurt in history. What do you think it was? It was $18,000 a year.


Faced with an existential management crisis, I started studying the real differences between goal-driven average salespeople and our top performers. The first group lived in the future. The high performers lived in the moment. I have worked with many of the most successful agents and brokers in this market and all of them live with an urgency to get the most out of the present.


We can apply this philosophy to weight management. For those of us who go to the gym, what happens at the beginning of every new year? The place is flooded with new members who disappear within the month. Each of them made a New Year’s resolution to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date. If I have until May to lose thirty pounds, how many times can I sneak in a piece of cheesecake? In my life, weight management had to become a clear and present danger before I made a commitment to move weight loss from the future.


  • Urgency. There is no tomorrow, there is only today.
  • A focus on how much we can get from the present rather than what we are going to do in the future.
  • Selectivity. We can do 101 goals. We cannot occupy the present with 101 commitments.


Here is an example:


A young bank president came to the Inspired Work Program. He had been involved in a nasty political experience that had brought an end to his job. He was a father with several children. His opening narrative was about finding another job similar to the one he left. By the second day, it became clear that he had a unique talent and that launching a business would be a better platform than taking another job. He called his family from the event and told them he was heading straight to their cabin in the woods and would not be home until he was finished with his business plan. A week later, he came home, launched the business and ended up making more money than ever before. Like so many other graduates, he continues to grow his business and brand today.


If there is something we desire and it isn’t influencing immediate action, that desire is simply cluttering the road to what is really important in our lives. So, if that idea ripens like a piece of fresh fruit and drops into our lap, take it home. But, don’t let it define your life.


I have simply learned that we play games with goals. Sometimes we use them to bolster hope that life will get better. There is nothing wrong with that. But, recognize the device for what it is.

As this year comes to a close, I suggest picking something so wonderful that it occupies your heart and your soul right here and right now.


Brought to you by David Harder, PresidentInspired Work, Inc.


(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)


If you would like to discuss your workplace or your career with David Harder, schedule fifteen-minutes, Here.