Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strategic Planning: The difference between desires and goals.

I'm a rookie biker. Rather, I should say I have been biking for about three months now to lose some of that weight that is always there to spare.

I don’t run much: one hour twice a week and, on weekends, since I have a little more time, I do five hours between Saturday and Sunday.

A few days ago, being at the end of one of my rides, already tired and willing to get back home, I had a very interesting experience which I want to share with you.

Two riders passed me by the left side, calmly and without apparent effort. Not only they did pass me, but moved away from me at a good speed. Of course my competitive spirit was hurt and I immediately began to feel the need to not leave the situation just like that.

For a moment I was torn between whether to push myself to try and reach them both or just leave the situation alone. The reflection that followed caught my attention.

We have to clearly understand the difference between desires and goals.

On one side there was the option to push myself a little more, press the accelerator down and try to heal my wounded pride, reaching the two cyclists who had passed me. That meant using energies that I did no longer have, exposing myself to an unnecessary injury and, at the end, not finally finishing my biking session that day if I had got hurt.

On the other hand, there was the option to leave it alone. Why? Because after all, I went out biking not to compete with anyone but to get some exercise, burn extra calories, get some workout for my legs and increase my endurance. Little more. My goal was not to compete with anyone, even though at that moment it was the desire of my heart.

Then I remembered that many businesses do the same thing too: They mix up what they want with the goals they wish to achieve.

Be careful with what you wish for, because you can get it all.

Although it seems an implausible story, there are many cases of companies that have gone bankrupt just after having had their strongest growth periods. I remember a UPS commercial I saw many years ago in which they were showcasing a group of young entrepreneurs who were very happy to finally have their own e-commerce platform up and running.

While congratulating each other on how nice the platform they just launched looked and felt, they suddenly stopped, staring at each other, speechless, because something was happening: Orders were coming in continuously through their e-commerce site!

The first orders were received with satisfaction but, as orders piled up, they came to realize they weren’t ready to fulfill such a strong demand and didn’t have any alternative plan of action designed to cope with such a situation.

A goal is not necessarily what you want, but what you can achieve and deliver.

In the case of the UPS commercial (I'm trying to find the link in youtube to drop it here), the desire of the young entrepreneurs was obviously to increase their sales. That’s the reason why they launched their e-commerce platform to begin with

Maybe a little planning in advance would have kept them from running into this situation or, at least, allow them to have options to choose from, but they didn’t think of it. And although this one is about an advertisement and it doesn’t provide any further detail on the story, we could probably assume that the company, not having the ability to fulfill so many orders, perhaps began to fail on delivery dates, ran out of inventory, and some other things. Maybe they didn’t. Who knows?

Your wishes can become a nightmare.

If we were to be talking about your company, do not mix up what your best desires are for  it with what the company can actually accomplish. Wishing to double your sales is always a laudable goal to consider, as it is with opening new offices and expand. Who does not want to accomplish things like that?

However, it is not only about what you want to achieve but about being certainly ready for what it means to achieve such goals and stay at the same or higher level thereafter.

Going back to my biking case, perhaps I could have increased my riding pace and reach the bikers that had passed me, but if I had hurt myself, what then? Would you let your company go bankrupt, only for wanting to achieve something for which your company is not ready yet?

For now, I’ll continue biking with the same goal: to do some exercise, lose weight, and increase my endurance. Every time I run, there are some cyclists that I pass, and others that pass me. However, I have my goal clear on my mind and no longer suffer for my own desires.

Can you do the same for your company?

Related post: It’s time to grow: When it’s not good to wear too many hats.


  1. Wise advice. It can be easy to blur the line between desires and goals, but I agree with you that its important to make a distinction between the two and examine what your motivations are for any business activity.

    1. Hi, Taylor

      Thanks for stopping by. I truly meant to recommend you read a different post which more clearly focused on flexibility. My bad :-D

      The link to that one is http://en.joelpintoromero.com/2012/06/business-plans-flexibility-obstinacy-or.html