Setting Goals – Where You're Going Wrong

Setting goals is crucial to taking a pro-active approach to life. Goals allow us to stay focused on what we really want; without them we are at the whim of whatever life may throw at us and quickly lose control of our lives. In order to attain self actualisation, you need to set goals - how else can you tell when you've passed a milestone or achieved something, without deciding on what it is you would like to achieve? By not setting goals, you're depriving yourself of one of the most essential aspects of your well-being – your sense of achievement and fulfilment.

Here are 10 of the most common mistakes people make when setting goals – and why – it might seem so hard.

1) Multiple Goal Setting:

While setting more than one goal is often not a bad strategy, this can easily escalate into the setting of way too many goals. At some point, working on several goals can compromise the achievement of even a single one of them! Spreading your focus and energy too thin between too many goals results in you not paying enough attention to each individual one. Commit yourself fully to a few carefully selected goals – with the right amount of dedication, your goals can be achieved!

2) Setting Unrealistic and Unachievable Goals:

This is the equivalent of setting yourself up for failure and doing this can result in a huge blow to your confidence. For a moment, your confidence sores to unimaginable heights, and once reality sinks in, it's easy to hit rock bottom. There is a thin line between setting goals that cannot be achieved and setting realistic goals that you can be excited about. Although you should never underestimate yourself, create goals that may be difficult to achieve, but reasonably so. Use the SMART guidelines to help you set realistic goals without selling yourself short!

3) Assuming that Goals Achieve Themselves:

Even though it may be obvious that work has to be put into achieving goals, it's easy to underestimate the amount of work required to make things happen. Most goals require consistent work and dedication, we can't just sit back and expect that a little bit of effort here and there is enough.

4) The Comfort Versus Results Struggle:

Before you commit to a goal, some basic research into what achieving that goal might entail is necessary in order to make sure that valuable time isn't wasted and that the goal is actually achievable. If you're terrified of the ocean but can't think of anything else you'd rather be than a scuba diving instructor, you'd better be prepared to get out of your comfort zone, take scuba diving lessons and get over your phobias! This applies to any other goal you may set for yourself and is the only way you'll see results.

5) Throwing in the Towel too Soon:

To continue with the scuba diving example, if you've attempted going to classes a few times and found them to be draining, emotionally tiring experiences, it may be incredibly tempting to give up. Accepting that a goal will be difficult to achieve from the get-go can help you find the motivation to continue through the struggle. Giving up too soon without giving yourself a proper chance to reach your full potential can not only result in unfulfilled goals, but also undermine your self-esteem and lead to future regrets. Don’t give up, just adjust the course.

6) Playing the Victim Game:

There's nothing more dis-empowering than viewing yourself as a helpless victim of circumstance or other people's actions. Thinking this way makes the setting of any goals pointless because if you're not in control of your own life, there's no way you can achieve any personal goals. This results in you not even bothering to work hard. Take control of your life and find things that motivate and inspire you to break free from the victim game!

7) Unwavering Pessimism:

If you always expect the worst, you're likely to get it. Just like having positive thoughts and the right mindset can help you achieve your aims, thinking negatively can have the exact opposite effect. Henry Ford very neatly summarised this point in his famous saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right!” Wasting energy worrying and dwelling on negative thoughts won't do you any good.

8) Going Under Instead of Over Hurdles:

Imagine an athlete going under the hurdles in a race rather than jumping over them. He/she would still get to the finish line eventually, but at what cost? Even though going under a hurdle may be physically less demanding (than making a jump), it would definitely slow down the athlete (and result in a disqualification). How does this relate to achieving your goals?

By taking the easy route and not dealing with the obstacles in front of you, you're hindering your success. Try to anticipate the obstacles that may arise and work hard to make it through them in the best way you can, because unresolved issues can hold you back from achieving your goals!

9) Having a Blurred Sense of Direction:

If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? This may work on a more abstract level, but not when it comes to setting and achieving clear and focused goals. Having a clear goal allows you plan targeted actions that are made to result in specific outcomes that bring you closer to your goals; they are also a great way to stay motivated!

Being uncertain about your goals also leaves your path to success obscure, ambiguous and open to potentially negative influences. Get crystal clear on your goals, a lack of clarity can lead to procrastination.

10) Peer-Pressure Goals:

It's easy to get sucked into the goals that society sets up for us, and that our family, friends and colleagues may expect us to value and strive towards. Have you ever noticed how long it takes you to complete a task you don't enjoy and how much effort you put into it, versus a job that you genuinely enjoy? For the same reasons, working on achieving a goal that you're not personally interested in is not only difficult, but also usually counter-productive. Find something that motivates you; it'll make the journey towards your goals as enjoyable as the destination!

Use this list to help you understand where you may be going wrong. Working on these points will enable you to enjoy the process of effective goal setting and eventually reap its benefits! Remember, you can only achieve goals if you set them!


Kirstin ODonovan is a multinational business coach from South Africa, author and founder of TopResultsCoaching®, an international company providing coaching services in nearly a dozen countries. With over 10 years working in the field of coaching and personal development, she provides her expertise to help entrepreneurs and small business owners to improve results and performance. She also serves top level, corporate executives in Spain, providing coaching and skills training. She also wri...

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