Move the Goalposts

Last Updated Mar 26, 2008 2:49 AM EDT

How often do we curse others for moving the goalposts? Back in my design consultancy days I was sure some clients didn't even notice the existence of goalposts until the artwork was on its way to the printer. But hey, that's another story.

In our own businesses it can be very beneficial to move the goalposts. Let me explain.

A fellow coach gave me some sound advice recently on this topic. I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't solved a particular issue within the timeframe I'd set. Prior to a short holiday I'd selected a date and time to finalise my thinking on something. Yet here I was, days after the deadline, with my thoughts jumbled up like a basket of laundry.

My mate reminded that just because I'd decided to crack everything by last Wednesday didn't guarantee it was going to happen that way. Sure, I was mobilised to think and act, but it was unrealistic to set a cutoff time. I simply needed to move the goalposts. Gee, I felt better.

Of course if we repeatedly fail to accomplish things within the parameters we've set, it's not long before we give up the notion altogether and divert to distraction.

While there can be many reasons for our failure to accomplish things, I find it's more common to ask ourselves big intimidating questions than to consider smaller, less destructive explanations.

The reason I didn't accomplish what I'd set out to do was not to do with my commitment, any failing in values alignment, or due to any cognitive meltdown ... it was simply that my timing was unrealistic. D'oh!

So next time you start to berate yourself (or others) for failing to score the goal, take a step back and look at whether it's simply that the goalposts need moving along a bit.

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (, the Australian online community for solo business owners.