Do You Have Incompatible Goals?

Just about anyone you ask will tell you that it is important to have goals. That much is clear, but there is also a very common snag that many people seem to encounter. They have goals, complete with plans of action. However, they may fail to realize that some of these goals are incompatible with one another.

Perhaps the best way to explain this is through the analogy of a tug of war. You have one goal pulling at one end of the rope and another goal tugging at the other end of the rope. Naturally, both sides cannot win. Worse yet, every time that one side makes progress, the other side loses a little. It really starts to feel like a zero-sum game, because you’ll feel like you’re falling behind on a goal. That doesn’t feel good.

Pull hard enough on both ends and it’s possible that you simply snap the rope. Both sides fall flat on their butts and no one is the winner. That’s even worse. How can you avoid setting yourself up for this kind of failure?

Realize Some Goals Are Inherently Incompatible

At first glance, your goals may sound like they are perfectly reasonable and there is no reason why, if you work hard enough, you can’t accomplish them all. After all, you’ve stuck to setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, you have a plan, and you’ve started taking some steps that are moving you closer to success.

Upon further inspection, you may start to realize that the steps you are taking to accomplish one goal are effectively detrimental to accomplishing another goal. Let’s demonstrate this through two examples.

  1. Yard Sale: Get top dollar for every item. Get rid of everything you have for sale. These two goals are incompatible, because the way that you’ll get top dollar is to haggle for the best price. As a result, you may miss out on some potential sales. The best way to get rid of everything is to clear them out for the cheapest price possible. By trying to accomplish one, you sabotage the other.
  2. Sports Car: You may have heard this one before too. Of fast, reliable, and cheap, you can only pick two. You can’t have all three. It’s reasonable to find a fast and reliable car, but it won’t be cheap. It’s possible to find an inexpensive car that is fast, but it won’t be reliable. You can have a cheap and reliable car, but it won’t be fast.

Focus Your Efforts

I’ve long since said that balance is usually the best approach for most things. You want to have a healthy life-work balance, for instance. The same can almost be said about goal-setting, but you have to realize that you’ll have to make some difficult decisions.

On the one hand, it may be prudent to balance your goals and realize that you’ll get stuck in that tug of war. Neither side will win completely, but that means that neither side can lose completely either. Both achieve a certain level of mediocrity. The alternative, then, is to focus your efforts completely on one of the goals, realizing that you’ll be sacrificing the other goal as a result.

The ideal situation is if you can devise goals that are actually compatible with one another. Want to spend more time with your friends and family while still advancing your career and financial exploits? That might work if you can generate some great passive income sources, for example. No one said it was going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.