Danger: Multi-Goal Syndrome!

MULTI-GOAL SYNDROMEnoun An Affliction commonly found amongst actors, artists, and creative professionals. Symptoms include frustration, burnout, and applying to law school. May be contagious.

Forrest GumpLet's talk Multi-Goal Syndrome. I know, it sounds like some kind of chronic disease and, in a way, it is, because it can certainly be fatal to your career. Multi-Goal Syndrome refers to having a ton of different interests and goals without having a tangible, organized plan for how to achieve any of them. This is such a common issue, especially in the arts, where creativity tends to outpace practicality, and people aspire to become multi-hyphenates.

I think it’s great to have different interests and skills, and it’s important to have a sense of ambition, a desire to conquer the world. But the reality is this: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything at once. What ends up happening is that you spread yourself too thin across so many different areas, and you never see enough real progress towards any of your goals. It’s a quick trip to frustration.

How do you know if you have Multi-Goal Syndrome? The most obvious symptom is feeling stuck, because you have a lot of goals that all feel equally important, and you can’t decide where to focus your attention. The solution to this issue is that you have to force yourself to prioritize, which can feel like an impossibility, I know. But you could narrow it down if you had to, and — trust me — if you want to make some progress, you have to.

I’m not saying that you have to take fifteen different focuses and choose only one. I’m talking about getting it down to five or, better yet, three. Remember, the purpose of goal setting is to help you focus, not overwhelm you, so you want to give yourself the time and space to explore one goal at a time. The thought of doing this, however, can trigger another symptom of Multi-Goal Syndrome: the fear of commitment. This is something that rears its head in the coaching room on a constant basis, a fear that, by committing to only one goal, all of your other goals will vanish forever. There’s a false sense of limiting yourself and your potential when, in reality, you’re actually giving yourself the freedom to realize your potential rather than being buried under the weight of too many options. When you’re throwing yourself in every possible direction, just hoping that something — anything — will work out, everything becomes more difficult. Networking is hard, marketing is hard, balancing your life and career is hard. The entire business becomes hard, because you don’t know what to do with your time and energy in order to make even the slightest amount of progress.

If all of this sounds good to you in theory, but the thought of focusing on one goal still makes your stomach clench, then think about it this way: you will be setting hundreds, maybe even thousands, of goals throughout your life. When you focus on one, it won’t be the end-all-be-all goal in your life. But you have to start somewhere in order to get to the rest of those goals.

So, what’s the most important goal to you right now? One thing I’ve learned over the years from growing my own business is that we accomplish ten times as much when we focus on one goal at a time, rather than trying to cover too many bases at once. By prioritizing our goals, we ground ourselves, making it less of a possibility that we’ll lose sight of what we’re working towards and, of course, creating a greater likelihood of success.

If you suffer from Multi-Goal Syndrome, I challenge you to focus your attention on one goal over the course of this next week. No matter how impossible it seems, just give it your best shot — I think you'll be pleasantly surprised do discover what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!