Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Fantasies are the enemy of progress

Published: 01 Jul 2011

Since I was a boy I’ve heard this talk about goals. I’ve always heard them done wrong. I don’t mean everybody is always wrong, but I mean every time I hear people list goals at least one is wrong.

Wait, how can a goal be wrong? Goals are good, they make people better! I disagree.

First I must define what a goal is. Goals are a few things to me:

  1. Goals are good.
  2. Goals are obtainable with the knowledge at hand.
  3. Goals have a clear victory condition.

I debated writing an example of a bad goal or a good goal first. Instead I’ll write about my own goals.

It’s no secret I want to start my own business. To do so I have a series of things I want to accomplish. The most important is to get a paying customer for our document storage system, Docuvent. This isn’t a goal, it’s a fantasy. With the knowledge and resources I have available to me I cannot achieve this. Also, there is no clear victory condition. I may get a paying customer that gives us a small one time payment. That doesn’t put me closer to what I truly want.

A fantasy is a byproduct of goals. My goal is to build an awesome product that saves companies money, because they would have to hire staff to do what our software does. The fantasy is that then they are happy to pay us. Eager to pay us, even. I don’t get distracted by the fantasy any more than I need to be. It is fuel for my goals and my ambition, but it is not my goal.

I have the abilities, experience and can deliver a superb product. I’ve done it before, just not for myself. It’s certainly a large goal and we have a great many tasks to do this. The sign of successfully achieving this goal is that our fantasies start to come true.

This is how I know my goals are correct. People fantasize about being where I’m at. There’s no overnight success, there is only careful planning and realistic goals. The fantasies are the reward. When I see someone I never want to be where they are at, I want to take the journey that will get me there.