When We Can’t Commit to a Goal

One of the four main ingredients of success–for ourselves or our organizations–is having clear, compelling goals. And despite knowing this, we often avoid committing to such goals.

One reason for this is that we see the goal as a prison. What if we commit to a goal and then, later, realize a better option? We feel if we commit we must follow through. Isn’t that how we’re supposed to do it?

Instead, let’s allow our goals to evolve. Here’s one good way to do that: set the goal qualitatively. Examples: “I will feel light, healthy, and energetic” or “Our sales team will provide predictable revenue each quarter that gives us more than enough money for short- and long-term commitments.”

We can then set more specific, quantitative goals and feel free to adjust them as we move ahead and learn.

In your corner,



3 responses to “When We Can’t Commit to a Goal”

  1. Debbie Avatar

    This triggered some thoughts on project management. I always feel uncomfortable commiting to high level milestones when I don’t have the detailed plan to support the commitment.

    The way I coach people through the process is to

    1. identify and acknowledge all the assumptions that you have made that support the goal/milestone. Then as assumptions are proven or disproven you can reevaluate the goal.

    2. think of the goals/milestones as goalposts that are used to set context for the detailed planning work. Once you have the more tactical work planned or executed if there is a major disconnect you can re-evaluate the goals/milestones.

    1. Mike Avatar

      Ah, this makes sense, Debbie. You get to say, “Yes, and…” to big commitments. “Yes” to the big goal “and let’s flesh it out, give the underlying assumptions a sniff test, adjust the goal based on what we learn, and make a reasonable, detailed plan to get us the that big goal.”


  2. Sheila Avatar

    You hit the nail on the head.

Leave a Reply