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What is ‘Goalodicy’?

Posted by on March 6th, 2013 with 0 Comments

Have you ever experienced the negative effects of goals?
If you have, then you might have experienced ‘Goalodicy’.

Goalodicy is a word that appears in the book “Destructive Goal Pursuit: The Mt. Everest Disaster“, by D. Christopher Kayes. Kayes writes:

To highlight that the negative consequences of goal-setting have begun to set in, the terms goal and theodicy were combined to form the term goalodicy. The “goal” part of this word highlights the future-oriented quality of goalodicy, so that a goal can be seen as an idealized future state, an optimal outcome. The “theodicy” part of this word emphasizes that current information is ignored for fear that it means that the goal will not be achieved. Goalodicy is a useful notion to show that some or all of the negative consequences of goals have begun to set in.

Although I often use the more colloquial term, ‘SMARTass‘ to capture the negative aspects of goals, I think that Kayes captures an important element here: that goals are forward looking. Sometimes the future state is so compelling that we don’t see – or refuse to acknowledge – what’s right in front of us.

Kayes continues:

Goalodicy can be summarized as follows: the more a person, group, or organization relies on a future as yet unachieved goal as a source of identity, the more likely they will persist at pursuing the goal beyond what is reasonable. The goal setter or setters will continue to invest more resources in achieving the goal, which increases the likelihood that achieving the goal will result in unforeseen and often detrimental outcomes. The goal setter may even risk his or her own demise to reach the goal. Ultimately, the goal becomes the primary identity of the goal setter, and abandoning the goal becomes as unthinkable as abandoning oneself (Kayes, 2005, p. 393)

My friends who have served in the military often refer to a person’s ability to ‘stop digging’. That is – when you find yourself in a dig hole, the first thing you should do is ‘stop digging’. That’s hard to do, however, if you’re highly invested – financially or emotionally – in the original goal.

Any MBA school, though, will teach you that sunk costs are, well, sunk costs.

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. Reflect: Have you ever witnessed ‘goalodicy’ in action?
  2. Ask: Are you currently engaged in ‘goalodicy’?
  3. Challenge yourself: What would happen if you ‘stopped digging’? What prevents you from doing so?
  4. Act: Seriously, if you’re truly engaged in ‘goalodicy’, you should stop digging

Post your comments, questions, and observations below.

 

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