Do You Have Something Called ‘Multi-Goal’ Syndrome?


Our hunch is you do.

Soccer goal at sunset

If you’re changing dream career path as often as you switch up your milk alternative, maybe it’s time to get some focus. It’s what Capes Coaching co-founder Betsy Capes captured in a searingly perfect definition for what we pretty much are all guilty of: something she dubs “multi-goal syndrome”.

“Multi-goal syndrome: having a variety of different interests and goals without a tangible, organised plan for how to achieve any of them,” she presented on a slide to the crowd at this year’s 99U Conference. “Symptoms include: frustration, burnout, and applying to law school. May be contagious.”

Sound familiar? While you’re running around starting a baking-themed Instagram alongside your market stall selling handmade pompoms, each idea and avenue is becoming more diluted and you, as a result, less focused.

Sure, it’s good to have a wide variety of interests (take this “multi-potentialite” as the perfect example), achieving a particular goal becomes that much easier when you’re able to focus on it with the majority of your efforts.

“One thing I’ve learned over the years, from growing my own business, is that we accomplish 10 times as much when we focus on one goal at a time, rather than trying to cover too many bases at once,” Betsy confirms.

So, how do you get focused and start taking on those goals one at a time? Here are a few ideas.

1. Face up

One unexplored reason you might have been dipping into several things at the same time? Fear of commitment.

“This is something that rears its head in the coaching room on a constant basis, a fear that, by committing to only one goal, all of your other goals will vanish forever,” Betsy explains.

But, really, you need to start figuring out what’s actually going to stick, and head straight for it, no matter how boxed in you think it might make you feel.

“There’s a false sense of limiting yourself and your potential when, in reality, you’re actually giving yourself the freedom to realise your potential rather than being buried under the weight of too many options. When you’re throwing yourself in every possible direction, just hoping that something – anything – will work out, everything becomes more difficult.”

Don’t set yourself up for failure even before you start.

2. Check your perspective

If you’re unsure about dismantling a group of great ideas to home in on one, try thinking of things in a different way.

“You will be setting hundreds, maybe even thousands, of goals throughout your life,” Betsy offers. “When you focus on one, it won’t be the end-all-be-all goal in your life. But you have to start somewhere in order to get to the rest of those goals.”

So, she advises. What’s the most important goal to you right now, right at this moment?

3. Get started

It might sound redundant to say, “Now all you have to do is get started!” because that’s the part that feels most overwhelming. If you’re stalling on starting (as most of us usually are), you can use a few different techniques: Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, has a foolproof way to beat procrastination, as does Matt Cutts in his ever-helpful TED talk, Try Something New for 30 Days. Simple advice is always the most helpful, isn’t it?

We would love to hear your thoughts