Why can goals sometimes demotivate us and our organizations?

Do goals really make us better?

The troop of young German boys came sprinting down the hill at record speeds. Big toothy grins were plastered across all of their faces. And their jerseys barely had any trace of sweat stained on them. The old Olympic coach scrunched his bulldog-like face in utter bewilderment as he snatched up each and every passing wrist that swung by the finish line.

As he stared intensely at each of the boy’s fitness trackers, he saw only one constant number. 42km. The scratched-up LED screens faithfully confirmed that each of the boys had indeed completed their morning run… in record time.

“But how is this even possible?” pondered the coach. As he stared at them playfully darting towards the shower rooms, he kept wondering why none of them seemed the least bit tired after such a supposedly grueling training session.

Day after day, the coach kept demanding the boys to run farther and farther. But no matter how high he set their daily performance goals to be, they consistently came back looking barely winded at all.

Little did the coach know, that instead of running through the endless trails of the Burgberg forest in the blistering heat, his adolescent athletes spent most of their days huddled together in an abandoned cabin in the woods. This is where they spent endless hours playing video games. All that could be heard from the cabin’s dimly-lit basement was the furious clicking of keyboard keys, and the sound of tumbling fitness trackers that were bouncing around in a front-load electric dyer.

Even though goals have the potential to drive us to grow and achieve more in our lives, they may also unintentionally cripple and handicap us as well. For as soon as goals are met, the pressure to perform and excel suddenly dissipate. And as soon as this happens, we may find ourselves unconsciously bumping the tops of our heads against artificial glass ceilings. Therefore we ought to be careful in the goals we make for ourselves or for others. For they may accidentally curse us all into complacency.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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