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Advantages and Disadvantages of Goal Setting

author image Leigh Ann Morgan
Leigh Ann Morgan began working as a writer in 2004. She has extensive experience in the business field having served as the manager of a $34 million rental property portfolio. Morgan also appeared as a guest on an episode of National Public Radio's "Marketplace Money" in 2005.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Goal Setting
A student is studying in the library. Photo Credit: Jetta Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Goals--plans to achieve something--have several purposes in personal and professional settings. The University of New Hampshire explains that goal setters can use the SMART acronym to develop goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable and relevant. They should also have a specific time frame for completion. Setting goals has several advantages, but this type of planning also has some disadvantages.

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Clear Plans

Goals help people develop clear plans for what they want to achieve and how they will accomplish those achievements. Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, N.C. compares a life without goals to a boat without a rudder. Without its rudder, a boat has no specific direction and veers off course. Without goals, a person has no clear plan for achievement.

Increased Awareness

Setting goals increases awareness of a person’s strengths and weaknesses, according to Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Md. Working toward goal completion allows people to identify what areas they need to improve to achieve a goal. Goal-setting also allows people to identify their strengths and use them to achieve a goal more quickly or with better results.

Specific Priorities

Some people have difficulty completing tasks because they do not know their priorities. Without a set of clear goals, people spend time on things that distract them from achievement. Depending on the person, distractions could include watching television, surfing the Web or playing computer games. Creating a clear plan of action forces people to determine their priorities and limit distractions, according to Montgomery County Public Schools.


Stated goals create pressure, especially if someone else creates them. Someone tasked with improving her work performance by 25 percent over the previous year might feel the pressure of having to meet an employer’s expectations. Even personal goals create additional pressure. Someone with the goal of losing weight might feel pressure when dining at restaurants or attending events featuring high-fat, high-calorie foods.

Sense of Failure

Goal achievement creates a sense of accomplishment or mastery of a skill. When someone does not achieve a goal, he may experience a sense of failure. This failure could prevent the person from setting goals in the future or working to achieve important milestones. Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. recommends that anyone who fails to achieve a goal should take time to assess that goal. If the goal was not realistic or the techniques used to achieve it were faulty, then a new goal should take its place. Using this information to adjust goals turns failure into an opportunity for learning.

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