Stop Setting Goals! Set Your Mindset and Direction

I’ve stopped setting goals. It seems like when I set goals, they don’t have much bearing on my actual day-to-day work. I get a lot done by setting my mindset and direction instead. Here’s how.

There’s a lot of talk about goals and goal-setting, especially at the beginning of a new year. I have a number of problems with goals, most of all they don’t help me achieve more.

  • Goals are results, and thus not in your control.
  • Goals are ends, not the path to reach them.
  • Goals focus on actions and results, not the thinking to get there.
  • Goals are fixed, not fluid.

I don’t set goals for the year, instead I set my mindset, direction and priorities.

Set Your Mindset, Not Goals

Mindset is your way of thinking that translates into behavior. (And behavior gets things done.) A couple of years ago, I spent some time reflecting on my mindset and identified areas that needed to change. I wrote about these in another article but here’s the summary:

  • Stop complaining and either accept my situation or take responsibility to change it.
  • Constantly do things that move forward.
  • Finish projects, rather than just “working on” them.

If you want to get more done, begin with a hard look inside. How you see the world flows from your mindset.

I replaced mindsets holding me back with mindsets that would move me forward. Just shifting these mindsets began to produce new results in terms of getting things done.

Plus, I was much happier. I looked forward to working because I felt more in control of my thinking and translated thinking into forward-moving behaviors, which produced motivating results.

See the pattern?


Most goals are more about your results. But the key is your mindset. So, begin by resetting your mindset and it’s more likely the rest will follow.

Set Your Direction & Priorities, Not Goals

Many goals are stated as results, which are largely out of your control. Take this goal for example,

Increase enrollment for the Coaching Mastery Certificate Program by 50%.

This goal places my focus to other people’s behavior and not my own. I will contribute to people enrolling in Coaching Mastery, but this goal is not fully in my control. And I don’t like that I become fixated on “the numbers” instead of person and their need for this coaching program.

Instead, I set Direction and Priorities. Here’s a Direction:

Get the word out about the Coaching Mastery Certificate Program.

It will produce the result I’d like to see, but it’s focused on me (“get the word out”) and broad enough to allow flexible approaches to achieving it.

With the Direction set, I create some Priorities to guide me forward. Here are my Priorities for the Direction above:

  1. Make it easier for people to understand the value of the program to them.
  2. Create multiple on-ramps for people to hear about it.
  3. Give people value-added benefit as I get the word out, rather than “selling.”

These Priorities give me the questions to evaluate what I’m doing and the results I could expect.

  • How much easier is it for people to see the value of the program?
  • Is this a new on-ramp to hear about it or just an improvement of an existing one?
  • How much value-added benefit are we delivering along the way?

I ask myself these questions to shape my day-to-day work in my desired Direction. It’s quite flexible and fluid, allowing for changing conditions and any new learning I have along the way. Yet, the Direction and Priorities give some boundaries to keep me from bouncing around from project to project without being productive.

Here’s how this system of Direction and Priorities worked in action.

Earlier this year, I wanted to revise the text on the webpage for Coaching Mastery. That project fit my Direction (“get the word out”), but when I reviewed the Priorities I realized it wouldn’t be a new on-ramp and it wouldn’t deliver any new value-added benefit to people.

So, I put the webpage rewrite on hold and created a free infographic called Why We Need Both Mentors & Coaches, which led to publishing a short book on the What and Why of coaching called, Coaching In Ministry. Together, these two projects have significantly spread the word about Coaching Mastery and firmly fit the three Priorities.

Take some time to reflect on your own mindset. Commit to any necessary changes. Then, set a couple Directions and create Priorities for them. Create each week’s schedule around these and I bet you get more done this year!

Question: What alternatives to goal-setting work for you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. You own your comments but give me permission to use them. See My Comments Policy. Read my Permissions Policy to know how you can use my posts.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    3 thoughts on “Stop Setting Goals! Set Your Mindset and Direction

      • Mark, SMART action steps are helpful because they are what you are going to do or change, not just the result. Goals have their place. The result goal: Weight 200 pounds by Feb 15th, is good, but not enough. In all the talk of goal-setting we lose sight of implementation, and that’s what I’m focused on in this article.