Goal obsession: 3 habits derailing our career

Goal obsession isn’t always a bad thing, especially when you’re trying to achieve something. It is the number one characteristic of entrepreneurs, businessmen and every day people when they want to attain goals and are serious about their ambition.
However, underneath ambition lie habits that can hurt and derail our careers and affect the lives of people around us for the worse.
Here are the 3 habits that may derail our career when we are goal obsessed and what we need to do instead.
  1. When we identify with the goal

Goal obsession occurs when we consider the goal as part of our personal value and identity. We focus so much on achieving it that we see nothing but the goal. We treat people as means to get where we want to go. Usually obsession is due to a lack of understanding of what we really want in life, having adopted the prevailing standards of happiness and success (eg, more money means security, a lean body will bring me love, etc.).

Opposite to goal-obsession is goal-flexibility which means we have the will to change the whole plan leading to the goal even when we are very close to achieving the desired -now irrelevant- future.


  1. When the goal we chase isn’t in line with our values

Effort, focus and commitment have a limited contribution to achieving our goals when our values do not align. There are a million self-help books out there that prescribe tips and tricks on how to achieve our goals, smart, fast, time framed but none of these books talks about how to identify the goals that are in line with our values.

If we want to find what really is us we might want to step away from stressing situations and mind-numbing distractions and decide what really matters to us, what we prioritize and care most in life, where and to whom we want to devote our energy and time.


  1. When the goal negatively impacts what we try to change

When we focus and commit to a goal or set of goals, we will inevitably affect other, interrelated aspects of the situation that we are trying to change. In a business, this can practically mean reducing resources from a department that needs them the most. While on a personal level, it might mean I neglect aspects of my life, e.g., health, to make more money that I believe will provide safety. We need to be aware of how the environment in which we live and work is affected when we pursue a goal.



Goal obsession is not a badge of success or personal merit. Climb to whatever peak you want in your life, but make sure that the path to the top makes sense and you enjoy the route maybe more than the end result itself.

PS: If you need help discovering your inner potential, discovering who you are, your purpose in life and what principles and values guide you, my signature self-awareness 1: 1 coaching program was created for you to help you finally feel whole and grateful in your life.

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[1] Baumann, N., Kaschel, R., & Kuhl, J. (2005). Striving for Unwanted Goals: Stress-Dependent Discrepancies Between Explicit and Implicit Achievement Motives Reduce Subjective Well-Being and Increase Psychosomatic Symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(5), 781–799.

[2] Brunstein, J. C., Schultheiss, O. C., & Grässmann, R. (1998). Personal goals and emotional well-being: The moderating role of motive dispositions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 494–508.

[3] Burkeman, O. (2012). The Antidote. Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking. Text Publishing. Melbourne, Australia.

[4] Kayes, C. D. (2006). Destructive goal pursuit: The mount Everest disaster. Palgrave Macmillan. United Kingdom.

[5] Lester, J., (1983). Wrestling with the Self on Mount Everest. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 23: 31-41.

[6] Rowe, D., (2009). Why Uncertainty is Good for You. The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5/1/2022


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