Goal Setting Mistakes We've All Made

Setting and achieving goals can give your life direction and purpose. But there are a number of common goal-setting mistakes that can keep your efforts from being fruitful. So if your goals are leaving you feeling uninspired and like you’re not making any progress, you might be making one or more of these mistakes.

The most common goal setting mistakes

Some of the biggest mistakes we can make when it comes to downs to the goal setting process. Let’s dive into 12 of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to setting goals.

  1. You’re setting too many goals
  2. Your goals aren’t specific
  3. You don’t measure your goals
  4. Your goals aren’t attainable
  5. Your goals aren’t relevant
  6. Your goals don’t have a timeframe
  7. You don’t have accountability
  8. You don’t have a why
  9. You don’t have a plan
  10. You don’t take action
  11. Your goals aren’t for you
  12. You fear what comes next

You’re selling too many goals

One of the most significant goal-setting mistakes is setting too many new goals. It can be overwhelming trying to work on too many things at once, especially if they are all from different parts of your life.

I used to set myself at least seven different New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each year which is a pretty big list of goals. And by the end of the year. I was never that successful with any of those long-term goals. And I think part of that is because there were too many, to begin with.

Another reason I think I failed with my New Year’s resolutions is I was too caught up in trying to aim for a specific level. When I should have started with something a bit smaller to ease myself into it. Which helps work towards the bigger picture of my long-term vision.

You might even be better off setting a single goal that is your ultimate goal for the year. A word of the year can help with this.

Your goals aren’t specific

To ensure you reach your goals, it can be helpful to make sure that they are as specific as possible. Include things like numbers, timeframes and the resources involved. It can also help to have a detailed why and a goal-setting framework behind your goal.

Get out of the habit of setting vague goals like cutting back on social media.  Create specific goals like no social media for the first and last hour of the day.

Remember that clear goals should be tailored to your own interests, aspirations, and current circumstances.

You don’t measure your goals

Not measuring your goals is like not measuring the ingredients of a cake. It’s essential to track and measure the progress you’re making towards your goal.

Measurable goals answer questions like how much, how many and how often within a timeframe.

Your goals aren’t attainable

There is such a thing as aiming too high or even aiming too low, for that matter. And getting it right can mean the difference between success and failure.

It’s great to strive for improvement, but setting unrealistic goals is also setting you up for defeat. While aiming too low can leave you feeling underwhelmed with the end result.

It might take a while to find the right balance and the sweet spot between ambitious goals and goals that don’t get you out of your comfort zone.

Your goals aren’t relevant

Goals that are relevant to your life, as well as your life stage, can make quite a difference. Ensuring your goal aligns with the direction of your life and doing something you actually want to be working towards. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it the right time?
  2. Does this align with my core values?
  3. Does it seem worthwhile?

Regularly reviewing and adjusting your goals as your circumstances change is essential to maintaining their relevance. By ensuring that your goals are meaningful and fitting within the broader context of your life, you’ll increase the likelihood of achieving them and finding fulfilment in the process.

“We mistakenly believe that there is a lot of time left in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important. Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly!”
― Brain Moran – The 12 Week Year

Your goals don’t have a timeframe

It’s all well and good to have a time frame, but it also needs to be realistic. Decluttering your whole house in a single day probably isn’t possible. But leaving yourself with a year to do the job is also probably too long.

Breaking a larger task down into smaller goals that are more actionable can also help you determine how much time you will need.

As well as measuring your goals, you need to set aside enough time to work towards them. A lot of times we set goals but don’t actually make a plan to achieve them.

You don’t have accountability

I recently realised one of the reasons I was struggling with my goals is because of the lack of accountability. Sure no one else might actually care about my goals.

But without that external accountability, I was not making any progress.

And I didn’t care because I wasn’t making any progress.

I was the only one that knew about my goal, so why would it matter if I failed? So now I use an accountability partner to keep me on track.

It also helps if your accountability partner is also working towards their own goals, so it’s a reciprocal arrangement.

You don’t know why

Not having a strong reason for wanting to achieve a particular goal can be a dead giveaway when it comes to goal-setting mistakes. And not knowing having a clear understanding can leave you feeling unsatisfied with your key results even if you are successful.

Learn what is important to you and why to help you create meaningful goals.

If you’ve been setting the same goals over and over again but keep coming up short, there’s a good chance it doesn’t align with your why. So take a step back and reevaluate why this is one of your goals.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

You don’t have a plan

It’s all well and good to have goals, but how are you going to achieve them? So without a plan, your goal is really just a wish. A wish that you are doing nothing about. There are a number of tools to help you in the goal-setting process.

Creating an action plan is often considered the first step when you have decided on your goal.

Set aside time to create a plan that will reveal the finish line, helping to provide a feel-good experience.

You don’t take action

You might have a plan, but that doesn’t mean it converts action.

You can fill out your planners and worksheets, but unless you actually do the work, you are no closer than when you decided on your goal.

Breaking down your goals into smaller, yet actionable steps can help get the ball rolling. Procrastination is the enemy of action. Just start.

Your goals aren’t for you

Sometimes we set goals because we want to be or have something else for other people.

Some people go to university to study something specific, even if it doesn’t interest them, because that’s what their parents wanted.

Some people join gyms or exercise more so they can fit in better with their friends, even though they are already comfortable in their own skin.

You fear what comes next

Sometimes we have big dreams that need big goals to get there.

And sometimes they are so big that they scare us.

And sometimes it’s what comes next that really scares us, so we avoid setting that goal.

Starting your own business can be scary, quitting your job to go full-time with your business is scarier.

But not quitting your job in fear of what might happen next is a goal-setting mistake.

Now that you know the most powerful ways you might be limiting your personal growth when it comes to goal setting, you’ll be surprised by the potential progress that you can make.

At the end of the day, using the right framework can help you achieve your life goals by outlining the entire process.


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