Can setting goals be a bad thing?
Goal setting makes people more likely to cheat.
Ordonez and her colleagues mounted the case for the opposition in a 2009 paper with a heavy-handed pun for its title – “Goals Gone Wild” – in the usually rather dry pages of the journal Academy of Management Perspectives… clearly defined goals seemed to motivate people to cheat… Those given a target to reach lied far more frequently than did those instructed merely to “do your best.” More importantly, though, Ordonez and her fellow heretics argued, goal setting worked vastly less well outside the psychology lab settings in which such studies took place. In real life, an obsession with goals seemed far more often to land people and organisations in trouble.
And the results aren’t always something to be proud of:
In survey research he commissioned, drawing on samples of American adults, 41 per cent of people agreed that achieving their goals had failed to make them any happier, or had left them disillusioned. While 18 per cent said their goals had destroyed a friendship, a marriage, or another significant relationship. Moreover, 36 per cent said that the more goals they set for themselves, the more stressed they felt – even though 52 per cent said that one of their goals was to reduce the amount of stress in their lives.
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