Striving for Excellence through Goal Achievement

By Cobus Terblanche

It is not always about how adventurous, challenging, or risky goals are. Nor is it about the number of goals pursued. In the end, it is our attitude towards goal achievement that will determine the ultimate success. As a management consultant, I have worked with many organisations for over thirty years. An element that strikes me as one of the biggest problems is that there is an incredibly small number of organisations that have a clear vision and goal structure that they pursue with passion.

I am frequently invited by the head of large organisations to discuss the details of an upcoming strategic planning session. One of the first questions I usually ask is if they have an existing vision and supporting implementation plan. On numerous occasions, I am surprised by the organisation’s leader picking up the phone to ask his personal assistant, “Uh, please find our vision and bring it to my office. I think it’s in our strategic planning folder for last year.”

Sitting opposite the leader, I reason with myself that, “Okay, at least there is a vision and strategic plan. Just a pity it’s locked up somewhere in a dark filing cabinet. Or maybe it is captured in zeros and ones somewhere inside a computer.” Can you imagine the leader explaining to the Board of Directors that there is no progress in business because their vision was destroyed by an aggressive virus, probably programmed by a bored teenager and spread by those cute kitten e-mails?

I recall an incident where the personal assistant returned with the bad news that she couldn’t find the vision. In my mind’s eye, I saw three blind mice wandering around aimlessly stuttering, “We know there’s a vision out there, but we can’t find it.” It is even more tragic when I go back to the same organisation the next year, only to realize that nothing was implemented in the time spanning the last meeting and the follow-up strategic planning session. So, they make the same plan and file it away again. It’s an absolute waste of time and valuable resources. This almost reckless attitude towards goal achievement reflects poor performance results.

On the contrary, when goals are clear and supported by an implementation plan with a specific action, the results manifest in the form of positive performance. A company with a constructive approach towards goal achievement is typically associated with influential leaders, a clear vision, motivated people, passion, and an appetite for risk and creativity. The goal achievement plan and process are typically shared and owned by all, from the top floor to the shop floor.

Organisations aren’t the only guilty ones; the lack of clear goals linked to actions is also prominent in groups of people and individuals. I have asked many colleagues, clients, and students taking my courses at university to indicate whether they define goals which they pursue in life. In most cases, only a small number could raise their hands confidently. Even these individuals usually go on to confess that they pursue goals not out of a free will, but because they are forced by circumstances to do so.

Thus, I have come to the arguable conclusion that many people are aimlessly drifting through life completely lacking a constructive attitude towards goal achievement. They follow a daily struggle to get up, go to work, engage in some form of tedious activity, tolerate the boss or colleagues, and eventually develop a stomach ulcer. Some people leave for home, and to make matters even worse, they walk straight into a destructive relationship. Others still endure constant unfortunate social and economic hardships. Some are lucky enough to eventually make it to pensionable years when the struggle continues but on a more extreme level.

People are ultimately so busy making a living or trying to survive that they don’t find time to initiate or pursue any goals. But if we don’t deliberately identify goals to change or improve the circumstances, everything will remain the same. Without pursuing goals, the status quo will linger unaltered; nothing will change. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. We remain the victims of circumstances without taking the necessary action to change it.

And to make things worse, more people seem to have goals than people achieving them. It may sound obvious, but to achieve a goal, we need to have a goal first. Since so many people do not identify, define, and follow goals, they hardly accomplish anything worthwhile in life. The absence of personal growth in these individuals stems from an apparent lack of goal definition and subsequent goal achievement.

Goal attainment is about changing an existing state of affairs. Unfortunately, many humans don’t like change, and thus people go to great lengths to avoid making changes. However, a lack of change means maintaining the status quo. And no change means no goal attainment.

It is difficult to change if we are content with stability. Since change is never easy, we protect the familiar environment. Defending the current state is a natural reaction, but change requires a deliberate intervention to get the process kick-started. Occasionally it is easier to protect a position of contentment and cling to the environment we are accustomed to, rather than pursuing goals. Some people might even go to such an extent as to happily resist or sabotage change, whether the current position is favourable or not. They forcefully defend the existing situation by using irrational justifications. The reason for this reluctance usually stems from fear. Fear of the unknown or anxiety to fail prevents us from embarking on a journey of change. Even a vested interest in the current state of affairs should not serve as an excuse to go out and search for a better future.

This article is an adapted version of an excerpt from the book Ready Steady Goal: A Universal Goal Achievement Road Map. The full version of this book is available on the Amazon Kindle store ( Should you require guidance or assistance in achieving excellence through goal achievement, please contact NVNT via