Having Too Many Goals Is Like Having None

by Ron Haynes

Back when I was a little kid, my aunt and uncle had a chicken farm with two very large chicken houses. On one or two Sundays each month, my parents would take my brother and me to spend time with our relatives where we learned to talk with a very country accent and learned to appreciate air conditioning. In all seriousness, we loved going to visit my great-grandparents, aunts and uncles and other relatives and it’s odd how so many of the little things I learned have stuck with me. Sayings like:

Boy, no one can get your goat unless you tell them where you tie it. –my great-grandfather, Otis Hancock

He was referring to our tendency to get irritated and then be vocal about it!

Fried Chicken and Multiple GoalsHave you ever heard the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off?” Once, when I visited my Aunt Hazel and Uncle Spencer’s home, my Aunt went outside to “harvest” a chicken for our Sunday evening meal. Now, nothing tastes as good as Aunt Hazel’s fresh fried chicken, and no chicken was as fresh as hers. On this occasion, she tied the bird to some wire on the fence just outside the kitchen door and proceeded to cut it’s head off and allow the blood to drain (if this is disgusting, remember that we’re far too removed from the realities of where our food comes from). All the other times I had witnessed this event, the bird went through a brief spasm and expired there on the fence, but this time, the wire wasn’t tight enough and, though HEADLESS, the bird escaped the bonds of it’s ankle wires and began running all over the yard with Aunt Hazel and all the grandkids and nephews chasing it. It was pure pandemonium.

After about 40 seconds, the poor bird ran into the road and was hit by a pickup truck. Talk about having a bad day!

When you have too many goals, you’re a lot like that crazy chicken — running all over the place, people chasing you, out of your mind, and probably about to be hit with something big that will stop you in your tracks.

If this describes you, take these steps so you don’t end up as someone’s dinner:

  • Slow down and breath.
  • Think.
  • Choose one clearly articulated goal at a time and focus like a laser on it.
  • Bring that one thing to completion (completed tasks rarely come back to bite you).
  • Repeat as necessary.

You don’t have to live a crazy life if you take some time to slow down, take a deep breath and work on one thing at a time. After all, you can’t do more than one thing at a time, at least you can’t do more than one thing at a time really well.

One well defined, measurable goal can motivate you to action more than multiple goals with various deadlines and will generate a feeling that hitting your goal is imperative, not merely desirable.

photo credit: hildgrim

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.


Mark W.

The best story I’ve read as a reason NOT to multitask.


I just gave up eating chicken. That was awful to visiualize.

Srinivas Rao

Entertaining story and great insights on goal settin.

Four Pillars

I love the chicken story…lol.


I agree… it’s ideal to do one thing at a time and put all your focus on it. That does result in better quality and care. Unfortunately, I think one of the things that works against us is that our own personal “speed” (how long it takes each person to do a certain thing if they really focused on it) doesn’t always match up with what the exigencies of our lives demand, so we get caught up doing several things at once, or having to ignore one and fall behind while we complete the other.

lori shaneck

Loved this story! I had a similar experience when I was younger. These are all valid points – I am a HUGE procrastinator and never seem to get things done until I am under pressure to just DO IT. Thanks for the tips

Aaron Whiston

This is a great topic that too few people explore. In 2008 I spent considerable time exploring a wide range of goal-setting strategies and ideals to help me expand into a new level of effectiveness with my business; I studied and reviewed systems by Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, and many others.

I learned a lot from all these courses, but ultimately I had to form my own system. I found myself quite overwhelmed with all the lists, the myriad timeframes, and just way too many objective maps… it really wore me out!

I now have a very laid back but fluid methodology whereby I allow (rather than “set”) basic goals that are in alignment with my highest values. I then define a few projects that will help me live/express from this center, and I use a very simple daily task list to stay on track until I’m finished with the projects and ready for more.

I have 10 life-defining goals that really capture who I am and the life I want to experience now and ongoing. But I only stack 2-3 projects at a time, and I work in frames of 1-3 months maximum – my goals lead me into new projects as a matter of course and my days are built on no more than 3-5 task sets.

Life is about the living, not the obsessive list making and trying to juggle a billion goals. The headless chicken analogy is a great fit for the theme you’ve nailed here.


:shock: Now that’s an analogy we won’t soon forget! Good one, Ron.

Air Jordans

I have the same problem of having so many goals that nothing gets done. It’s better to take things one step at a time and have one main goal. It’s hard enough to focus on one goal than to have so many that you can’t even focus on what you are supposed to do.

Previous post:

Next post: