Not All Goals Are Good Goals


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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

Good goals are long-term focused. They eschew instant gratification in order to create benefits down the road that result in financial independence, good health, long-term, valuable relationships and happiness.

Good goals benefit the future you. They push you to grow and improve as an individual.

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.

Bad Goals

Bad goals are short-term focused. They eschew delayed gratification in order to create immediate benefits, ignoring the impact on your future self.

Bad goals ignore the future. They do not help you grow or improve as an individual.

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 see less of your family. 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 invest that extra money in possessions, like a Ferrari.

The happiness you derive from owning more or better things will fade over time, since happiness derived from buying anything 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.

The benefits of achieving a goal should create some long-term benefit or result in long-term happiness: more time with the family, more personal growth, financial independence, improved health, etc.

When the achievement of a goal is predicated on owning more possessions or instant gratification, it’s almost always a bad goal –  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. Alicia Knights says:

    Hi Tom,
    Great article. I really enjoy reading your daily articles.
    In relation to this article ‘Good goals, bad goals’ can you please explain a little more how the bad goal of owning a Ferrari fits into building your own blueprint, from a previous article? For example if my blueprint includes a Ferrari, as well as other things like a certain house, a certain job etc-is this still a bad goal?
    Thanks Tom

    • Tks for your comment Alicia. Your blueprint should include goals and dreams that are in alignment with your values. Values = those things that are most important to you. For most people, it’s family, friends, health, financial security, time freedom (having time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it and with who you want to do it), a beautiful home in a safe and secure neighborhood, etc.

      What’s most important to you?

      If owning a Ferrari (or expensive jewelry or a mansion or a yacht) is most important to you, then I believe your values are off.

      At the end of your life, when you know your time here is coming to an end, will you be thinking about that Ferrari? Or, will you be thinking about the type of life you’ve lived – the good parent or good friend you were, the value you added to the lives of others, your legacy or the significance of your life? I doubt very much you will be thinking about that Ferrari.

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