It happens to all of us.
You set a goal that you’re really excited about.
You’re committed. Motivated. Unstoppable.
But somewhere along the way, things don’t go how you'd hoped and you end up not reaching your goal. Why?
It often has something to do with our approach or the types of goals we set to begin with.
Increase your chances of reaching your goals by avoiding these top ten goal setting mistakes:
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1. Thinking Too Small
You don’t want to limit yourself by thinking too small.
You’ve got to have something substantial to work towards. A challenge.
If you set your sights too low, your true potential won’t be realized and you'll miss out on living a life you truly love.
Stanford professors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras coined the acronym “BHAG” to describe the kind of goals that extremely successful companies set – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.
BHAGs are challenging, ambitious and inspiring.
When you have a big goal you’re working towards, you are motivated.
You try more things and take more risks than you would if your goal was small and easily attainable.
And that’s just the sort of behavior that leads to success – taking risks is a habit of highly successful people.
To achieve extraordinary success, you must be willing to do what others are not.
“Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't” – Jerry Rice
Entrepreneur Grant Cardone says that the only difference between success and failure is the 10X rule, and I think there’s definitely something to that.
The 10X rule states that you should think massive thoughts, set massive goals and take massive action.
Do what others are not doing. Be bold. Unreasonable, even.
Your goals should be 10 times greater than what you believe you can achieve.
In order to grow as a person, you need to step outside of your comfort zone.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” – Thomas Jefferson
2. Not Chunking Your Goals Down
Whenever you set a big goal in life, you’ve got to chunk it down.
Chunking is the process of breaking your big goal down from yearly -->monthly --> weekly --> daily tasks.
When you focus on small, doable tasks instead of a huge goal that you don’t even know how to begin tackling, you’re more likely to succeed.
BHAGs are inherently daunting. If you just set a BHAG and leave it at that, you’re making a huge goal setting mistake.
BHAGs take time to achieve, it doesn’t just happen overnight.
Chunking allows you to take it one day at a time and focus on your daily tasks, instead of the big (scary) goal.
And don’t forget to celebrate those small wins! It will help you stay motivated to chase your dreams.
Chunking down your lofty goal into daily, doable steps will not only help to keep overwhelm at bay but will also help to keep you motivated.
According to Harvard Business Review, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of progress.
Tracking relatively minor achievements:
Each time you accomplish one of your daily tasks, you are one step closer to achieving your big goal.
Progress boosts confidence, which facilitates success.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain
3. Setting Vague Goals
One of the most common goal setting mistakes is being too vague.
You’re probably already familiar with the acronym S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound).
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is an effective way to increase your chances of succeeding..
The “S” stands for Specific. If your goal isn’t clear and specific, you won’t know what exactly you are trying to accomplish or when you have accomplished it.
To get specific about your goal, answer the 5 “W” questions:
Conveniently, answering these questions about the “S”- Specific requirement will also ensure that your goal is: “M”- Measurable, “A”- Attainable, “R”- Relevant and “T”- Time-bound.
If your goal is not measurable, then the criteria for success are unclear. You won’t be able to track and measure your progress, which can severely reduce your chances of success.
If your goal is unattainable, you won’t be able to achieve it no matter how high your level of commitment is or how hard you try.
This can cause you to become discouraged … and maybe even dissuaded from setting goals altogether.
So, think about what it will take to reach your goal and whether there are any foreseeable limitations that may thwart your efforts to do so – preparation is half the battle.
A brain dump may help you to organize all your thoughts and ideas so you can determine which goals to focus on first.
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4. Not Setting a Deadline for Your Goals
Not setting a deadline is a huge goal setting mistake, especially if you’re a procrastinator or a perfectionist!
Without time limits, you could be endlessly working towards one goal without really getting anywhere.
Time constraints push us to prioritize and just get things done.
They force us to think about what exactly it will take to achieve our goals and to diligently work towards them no matter the interruptions or setbacks.
So, think about what steps you will need to take in order to achieve your goal and how long each one will take.
Keep in mind that don’t want to underestimate how long it will take to achieve but you also want to challenge yourself – both can be detrimental.
Not giving yourself a realistic amount of time can cause you to become (unjustifiably) discouraged with yourself.
But, giving yourself too much time encourages carelessness and procrastination.
Try to strike a balance and remember that you can always change it later if necessary (sometimes you don’t realize how long something will take until you start doing it!)
Setting a deadline is also a good way to see if you are really serious about achieving a particular goal or it was just a fleeting fantasy.
Are you willing to do what it takes in practice to reach your goal?
5. Setting Extrinsic Goals
Setting a goal for external validation is one of the most critical goal setting mistakes.
To determine if your goal is intrinsic or extrinsic, ask yourself what your motivation is for achieving it.
What’s your why?
Motivations based on external sources of reward or approval such as wealth/status, image and public acclaim are extrinsic.
Those based on internal growth such as living a healthier lifestyle or building confidence in yourself as an entrepreneur are intrinsic.
You’re more likely to achieve intrinsic goals because they are based on personal fulfillment … they mean something to you personally.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
This goes back to the “R” in S.M.A.R.T. goals – Relevant.
Is your goal relevant to your purpose?
Is it in alignment with your definition of success?
An intrinsically-motivated goal is not only about the outcome, but also the process itself. It has intrinsic value – you’re doing it for enjoyment or self-improvement, not for some external reward.
Also, remember to keep your goals positive. For example, instead of setting the goal to “not be late” (negative), set the goal to “be on time” (positive).
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Henry David Thoreau
6. Not Being Confident in Yourself
Optimistic people in general tend to be happier, healthier and more successful than pessimists.
The ability to see the silver lining in any situation helps to cope with the inevitable adversities we face in life.
But, one specific type of confidence is the most powerful predictor of success – self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to achieve your goals.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, people with high self-efficacy are more likely to reach their goals because they believe they can.
Do you believe that you can achieve your goals?
If so, you have an advantage. This particular type of confidence draws success to you.
When you are confident, you:
If you don’t have a strong sense of self-efficacy, don’t worry! It is a skill that can be cultivated.
A good place to start is by accumulating some small wins.
It won’t be long until you have an optimistic expectation of success.
The more you show yourself that you are capable of accomplishing goals – however small – the more you believe that you are capable of accomplishing goals in the future – however big.
“Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.”
Related Post: 50 Motivational Quotes to Boost Your Confidence
7. Waiting Too Long to Commit
This is probably one of the most common goal setting mistakes.
Have you ever wanted to begin a new habit, say, healthier eating/exercise but couldn’t start yet because it wasn’t Monday?
Yeah, me too. This is a form of procrastination!
There is no reason why you can’t start on a Tuesday or Saturday or whatever day of the week it is.
You may also be setting other arbitrary start times like “January 1st”, or once I finish this project”, etc.
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today” … it’s so popular because it’s true!
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or on Monday or whenever, so it’s best to start now.
And waiting too long to commit usually leads to not committing at all.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too …” – William Hutchinson Murray
If you are hesitant to commit to your goals because you feel like you’re not ready, just remember that you’ll probably never truly feel “ready” and there is no “right” time to start.
The time to start is now.
Starting before you’re ready is a well-regarded concept among some of the most successful entrepreneurs.
“Done is better than perfect.” -Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook
8. Not Writing Your Goals Down
This is the goal setting mistake Natalie Bacon says she sees the most.
Writing your goal down not only helps you to gain clarity, but also tells your brain that your goal is important and should be remembered.
Your brain will then try to make it happen, even when you’re not thinking about it on a conscious level.
It will look for opportunities and ideas to get you closer to making your goal a reality.
If you don’t write your goals down, you’re missing out on some valuable help from your subconscious mind.
So, give your brain an accurate description of your goal. The more vivid the description, the better.
It doesn’t have to be strictly in written form, it can also be pictures, drawings, a vision board – anything that’s a physical representation of your goal.
Studies show that those who vividly describe or picture their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish them.
Writing your goal down will also help you to stay focused. During the time that you’re trying to achieve your goal, there may be other opportunities or distractions that crop up.
Having a written reminder of exactly what your goal is will keep you on track and “shiny object syndrome” at bay.
9. Trying to Control Everything
There have definitely been times when I wanted something so badly that I tried to control everything.
This is a mistake not only when it comes to goal setting, but also when it comes to life in general.
We don’t know why things happen the way they do.
Sometimes, what seems like a failure or a missed opportunity turns out to the best possible outcome (in hindsight).
When you trust that everything is unfolding as it should, you’re more likely to reach your goals because you’re not burnt out from trying to control every little thing.
“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life." - Eckhart Tolle
You simply do your best and release the rest.
The art of surrender is an important one to learn, especially if you have big, long-term goals because things will not always go your way.
Sooner or later, there will be failures and unforeseeable setbacks and tests of adversity.
When you accept this inevitable truth, you are able to sit back and enjoy the journey, knowing that there will be triumph and defeat, joy and devastation.
You persevere through all of it because you know that things will ultimately work out for the best.
That’s why it’s important to stay open to the possibilities. Being too stubborn and inflexible can cause you to miss out on serendipitous opportunities.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but flexible in your approach.”
– Tony Robbins
10. Neglecting Self-Care
You’ve got to take care of yourself before anything else.
If you neglect self-care, you are making one of the biggest goal setting mistakes you can make.
“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama
If you’re ambitious (which I know you are because 1- you are trying to avoid making goal setting mistakes AND 2- because you are still reading this article!), your goals can be a huge source of stress and anxiety.
Being committed to making your dreams a reality does not mean neglecting self-care.
No matter how busy you are, you must allocate time to take care of yourself. Your health and happiness is important.
Healthy diet, ample exercise, water and sleep are all super important, as is mental self-care such as meditation, yoga, journaling, practicing gratitude and doing regular brain dumps and social media detoxes.
If your body, mind and spirit are taken care of, you will be more likely to achieve your goals – and feel good doing it!
Conclusion: Avoid These 10 common Goal Setting Mistakes-
1. Thinking too small
2. Not chunking your goals down
3. Setting vague goals
4. Not setting a deadline for your goals
5. Setting extrinsic goals
6. Not being confident in yourself
7. Waiting too long to commit
8. Not writing your goals down
9. Trying to control everything
10. Neglecting self-care
Over to you … any goal setting mistakes I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!
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