The equally evil cousin to Analysis Paralysis, “Candy Store Syndrome” prevents the best of us from achieving goals.
Just as we have to think reasonably about how much sugar our bodies can handle at a time, we have to mind our mental and physical capacities when goal setting.
There is no magic, one-size-fits-all number for the amount of goals you can identify and pursue at once, but there are signs that you might be spreading yourself too thin, to the detriment of your career momentum.
If any of the following sound familiar, this could be your wake-up call: your future demands a little more patience and strategy.
Goal setting feels similar to writing your grocery list.
This is the most common, most obvious indicator of Candy Store Syndrome. We have all heard the saying “quality over quantity” a million+ times, but when it comes to mapping out our career growth and personal development, we often code-switch to “go big or go home.”
Let’s clarify. These virtues don’t have to be mutually exclusive. They can exist alongside one another and breed perfectly healthy results. The problem is in how we interpret the meaning of each.
For instance, it is in your best interest to pinpoint goals that challenge you – personally and professionally. This is how we grow! However, when you bog yourself down with a CVS receipt-length list of goals at that scale (and put undue pressure on yourself to transform overnight), it becomes difficult to fully rise to the occasion for any one of them.
Instead of brainstorming every single thing you aspire to accomplish over the course of five to ten years, think of one BIG thing you want to knock off of your list before the end of the year (or next 12 months).
From there, work backwards to create smaller, benchmark goals that will ramp you up to that point. Thinking beyond that scope of time is only going to create an unnecessary shadow of expectation that has no business following you around at this point in your career.
Think: what one thing will you commit to for this quarter that will help you gain some ground toward your end-game? What about this month? Start there. When you reach that first benchmark and feel like you knocked it out of the park, push yourself a little harder. It’s always better to start from a place of attainability and achievement than it is to overwhelm yourself with the first jump.
2. When you slow down, you pivot to new goals.
When you are working toward a long-term goal, there might be times when your progress slows, you experience failures, or you have to take a pause for a while.
This is completely normal. Life happens, and we cannot always operate at 100% capacity.. We might even be experiencing a more prolonged rut (like, say, a global pandemic…) and have to take some time to recalibrate how to keep developing at a more humble 88%.
The best thing to do in these situations is to simply take the rest you need and/or the time to reflect on your failures (critically, not cruelly), and keep doing your best to stay the course. Those of us with Candy Store Syndrome, however, might instead seek out the adrenaline rush of a shiny new goal with yet-unblemished opportunity for success.
To be clear: sometimes our priorities shift and we learn that the kind of career advancement we were once interested in might not serve our best interests going forward. If this is the case, absolutely get back to that drawing board and do what is best for you.
*But* you have to be honest with yourself. Before you jump ship, ask:
Am I just running away from this goal because I experienced a failure? Or because I’m not advancing “fast enough?”
Am I still interested in that “big” goal I strategized for?
Do I trust my long-term strategy, and is this new goal in line with it?
Even the most well thought out timelines can be thrown off or elongated for reasons entirely out of our control. Remain patient, humble, and persistent, and trust that even slow progress is still progress.
3. You feel like your failures outweigh your successes.
When we become impatient for “success” or struggle to zero in on an attainable set of goals, we spend far more time jumping around and juggling than we do celebrating our progress.
Either because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and we are facing the reality of our (very human, very normal) limits, or because our chronic goal-hopping doesn’t allow for the proper goal incubation period… we waste our energy focusing on what we are not doing instead of what we’ve accomplished.
The truth is, making a sincere commitment to your goals requires a fair bit of discipline and self-trust, which also means understanding the difference between failure and resignation.
Often we are right on the cusp of a big win when things begin to feel rough, and if we let that fear overwhelm us and distract us from our initial plan, all we ever get to feel is that: fear. Worse yet: fear without risk and reward has a nasty way of feeling just like failure.
However, staying the course, trusting your potential, and having the resilience to accept when you do fail without letting it dissuade you from making further progress… that can cure even the most dire case of Candy Store Syndrome.