I remember setting a huge business goal in the past. It made me feel so good at the time. I felt like anything was possible. It was such a high. I would compare the experience to daydreaming. I didn’t achieve my huge goal and reality set in. Some people tell you that it is important to set big hairy goals, but I disagree. I think big goals can have damaging effects, setting people up for a journey full of failures.

People are always calling for setting big goals. But while they want big goals, there is no clear evidence that big goals result in big results. Setting big goals can be good, but they can also lead to unnecessary frustrations or even failure.

You might start a business, setting your revenue goal to one million dollars by the end of your first year in business. I guarantee you that it will make you feel good. I really don’t want to be a party pooper, but the feeling won’t last. Instead of getting close to reaching your goal you will feel increasingly frustrated. You will focus on the revenue instead of building a great business.

It is important to set goals, but we have to do so without setting ourselves up for failure. There are several ideas to consider determining whether or not an idea is unrealistically big:

Let’s be real – If you have never built a successful business and you are just starting out, don’t fool yourself. Talk to successful business people about your goals. Their experience will help you set goals that are achievable.

Apples to oranges – Don’t compare your beginning to another’s middle. It is easy to look at an established business and think that you can do what they did. Yes, it is possible that you can build a business just as successful, but consider how long it took them to get where they are now. Also consider their business environment and their business climate. Did they start in the middle of a recession? Was it their first business? How much funding did they receive? Don’t try to achieve in a year what took others twenty years.

Decide what matters – Decide what matters to you most, achieving your goal no matter how ambitious, or your peace of mind. If money is what matters to you the most, your goal should be about money. If time to travel and doing things you love to do, your goals should include such activities.

Setting goals too big can hurt you in multiple ways. The following are some of the common negative side effects of too big goals:

Narrowed focus – I might focus on a too narrow aspect of my business such as doubling the number of customers in the next 12 months. Does that really motivate me or my employees?

Guilt – Setting the goal was easy. Now, that I have failed to achieve it I feel guilty. The guilt radiates throughout my business. It infects every part of my daily life. It also hurts morale.

Increased frustration – As I approach the deadline I set for myself, my lack of progress becomes increasingly frustrating. No amount of banging my head against the wall will get me to my unrealistic goal.

Cheating – I will do whatever it takes to succeed. Really? I hope not. It may be good to hear that someone is ready to do anything to succeed, but anything means cheating too. Cutting corners and taking shortcuts result from setting goals too big to realistically achieve. I might reach a huge revenue goal, but at the cost of depriving my existing customers from excellent service.

Instead of setting huge unattainable goals identify KFAs (Key Focus Areas). Goals focus on the destination while KFA focuses on the journey. Instead of focusing on doubling your sales in 12-months focus on engaging twice as many prospects.Do not focus on sales only. Leave your sales goals open.

Another option is to set smaller goals. Don’t confuse this with breaking big goals into smaller ones. If your goal is to get 100 new clients in the next six months, making an extra 10 phone calls per day would be a good area of focus. I am not suggesting that you are breaking the goal of getting 100 new clients into smaller goals. Instead, we focus on taking the necessary steps to achieve a positive outcome.

Thinking big can be beneficial, but momentum and knowing that “you can” is more important. Reaching your next step is better than failing to achieve a big goal. As you achieve smaller steps you will develop the belief system that you “can achieve”. The belief system that you develop will help you get closer to your larger goals.

We are taught to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time trackable) goals. Goals with such restrictions can backfire. Huge SMART goals will only help you fail more systematically.

Instead of setting big goals focus on KFAs. One step at a time you will achieve what matters to you most. You will be able to get there without the danger of feeling guilty or frustrated. I heard that when the IBM sales force had the lowest sales quotas, they had some of their highest sales. It is said that the reduced stress had made it easier for their salespeople to pick up the phone and sell.

For long term success you want easily winnable goals. Successful habit forming requires small steps. If you want to build a great company, don’t expect to get there in 30-days. Getting one more happy customer at a time is a much more doable task.

Successful people will fail. The key is to minimize your chance of failure by setting goals that are challenging yet achievable.