Good Goals vs. Bad Goals – Not All Goals Are Created Equal

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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, 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 healthy 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.

Some other examples of good goals:

  • Becoming an Expert – Eighty two percent of the professionals in my five year study on the wealthy were niche experts. they devoted 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 – Forty eight percent of the business owners in my study started their 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 additional current income but could eventually give you the freedom to leave you job and devote yourself full-time to your business.
  • Improving the Way You Look – Thirty nine percent of the wealthy in my study lifted weights three days a week. Lifting weights to build a stronger, healthier body will improve the way you look. Healthier people have a better quality of life and fewer sick days, which translates into more productivity, more money and a longer life.
  • Become a Speaker – Twenty three percent of the millionaires in my study were also speakers. Joining Toastmasters or some similar speaker organization in order to develop your speaking skills will help benefit you in the long term. Being a good speaker sets you apart from the competition in your current industry, which will not only help you in your current job but could develop into an additional income stream down the road.
  • Become a Writer – Eighteen percent of those wealthy individuals in my study wrote for industry magazines and newsletters. 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 which opens the door of opportunity for promotions at work, new job opportunities or eventually getting paid for articles or books you write.

Bad goals create short-term happiness and 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 use that money to buy stuff, like a Ferrari. The happiness you derive from owning more or better stuff will fade over time, since happiness derived from buying stuff is always short term. You will eventually revert back to your genetic happiness baseline and, after a few weeks, the Ferrari will no longer create lasting happiness. 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 would enable 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 prudently for future wealth creation. Seventy seven percent of the poor in my study gambled on the lottery regularly.
  • Buying a Bigger House – 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 to the bank.
  • Buying a 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.
  • Taking an Exotic Vacation – While traveling to exotic locations can have some educational benefits, saving your hard earned money just to spend on an expensive vacation means not having that money to build wealth.
  • Destroying Your Competition – When you focus on destroying your competition as a means to increase your market share, rather than improving upon the products or service you offer, you hurt your business. Engaging in competitive warfare often accomplishes only one thing: reduced profits.

The benefits of achieving a goal should create long-term benefits: a stronger business, more time with the family, more personal growth, financial independence, improved health, etc. 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 stuff or to create some momentary pleasure are a wasted investment. Be careful of the goals you pursue. Not all goals are created equal.





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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. […] achieving a goal will create long-term benefits: a stronger business, more time with the family, more personal growth, financial independence, […]

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