June 3, 2024
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Why We Need to Set Goals … And Why Most People Don’t

Most people don’t set goals.

Did you know that only 3% of the population set goals and only about 1% of people write them down?

Yet, success expert Brian Tracy writes that “the ability to set goals and make plans for their accomplishment is the ‘master skill’ of success. It is the single most important skill that you can learn and perfect. Goal setting will do more to help you achieve the things you want in life than will anything else you’ve been exposed to.”

Research by psychologist Dr. Gail Matthews confirms this. She found that people who write down their goals, share them with a friend, and set weekly progress reports are on average 33% more successful in achieving their goals compared to those who do not follow these practices.

This is true in all areas of life.

  • Business: In the business world, organizations with clear, specific goals are more likely to outperform those without clear objectives. Studies have shown that companies with well-defined goals tend to have higher employee engagement and profitability.
  • Financial: According to a study by Fidelity Investments, individuals who set financial goals are more likely to feel confident about their financial future and make better financial decisions.
  • Education and Career: Students who set clear academic and career goals tend to perform better in school and have higher rates of graduation. Similarly, employees who set career goals are more likely to advance in their careers.
  • Health and Fitness: People who set health and fitness goals, such as weight loss or exercise goals, are more likely to make positive lifestyle changes and improve their overall health.
  • Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurs who set specific business goals are more likely to grow their companies and achieve long-term success.
  • Personal Development: Individuals who set personal development goals report higher levels of self-improvement and personal growth.
  • Happiness and Well-being: Setting and achieving meaningful life goals is associated with increased happiness and a greater sense of purpose.
Even fewer write them down.

So, why don’t more people set goals?

According to Tracy, the five main reasons are:

  1. People are not serious enough about being successful;
  2. They fail to understand the importance of goals;
  3. Many don’t know how to do it;
  4. They fear being rejected by others saying they can’t do it; and
  5. Fear of failure.

At different times in my career, I would have admitted to at least some, if not all of these. (If I’m being honest, I still wonder if I am serious enough about being successful.)

But I’ve seen the magic of goal-setting manifest countless times in my life.

Things like…

  • Securing my first and then subsequent administrative roles;
  • Completing multiple advanced degrees;
  • Enlisting my first set of coaching clients;
  • Enrolling people into my many mastermind groups;
  • Becoming fitter and healthier;
  • And many more.

This is because I learned how to set clear, actionable, motivating goals that help propel me to new heights. And I’ve used what I learned to help many of my clients—people just like you—make major transformations in their professional and personal lives. Real people, real results.

I’ll share more about how to set goals in future articles.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at [email protected].

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