5 Major Goal-Setting Myths That Keep You Stuck

Want to Achieve Your Dreams? Then Never Fall for These

Steve Mura was a Triple-A baseball pitcher. He was starting one night in an away game, but he almost lost before leaving the dugout. Why?

Portrait confused thinking young woman bewildered scratching her head seeks a solution looking up at many question marks isolated on gray wall background. Human face expression

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“I can never win on this mound,” he told his pitching coach and shook his head. For Mura, the game was already over, and he hadn’t even thrown the first pitch!

When it comes to making progress towards what matters most in life, there are at least five major myths we need to avoid like quicksand.

Over the years, I’ve seen these rob countless people of happiness, success, and significance—me included. Have you fallen for any of these?

Myth No. 1: Your Past Determines Your Future

Almost 40 percent of people in their twenties achieve their New Year’s resolutions each year, but not even 15 percent of those over 50 do—even though they probably have far more resources to do so. Why is that?

My guess is that they’ve also got more failures under their belt and don’t believe they can win. You might be like that too.

Maybe it was a failure in business or marriage, and now you’re doubtful about succeeding again.

Mura’s coach knew better. He pushed him to explain why he thought he couldn’t win. Mura said he’d lost there before—the angle of the mound was bad. So the coach asked him about changing his approach.

“There is a difference between ‘I have not won’ and ‘I cannot win,’” said Mura’s coach.

If we’ve failed in the past, it does not mean success is out of reach. It just means we have to change our approach.

That starts by challenging the myth. By changing his belief, Mura was able to change the outcome. He went from a limiting belief based on previous bad experience (I can’t win on this mound) to an empowering truth (I can win if I change my strategy).

And he went on to pitch seven innings with only two hits and no runs.

Myth No. 2: Safe Goals Are The Best Goals

The trip from Tokyo to Osaka used to take more than six hours by train. It was a bottleneck on business, and executives wanted to reduce the time.

But they didn’t set a safe, easily attained goal. They decided to cut the the trip in half.

The challenge required engineers to scrap conventional solutions and rethink the entire problem. As a result, they came up with the bullet train and revolutionized Japanese transportation.

But they could have played it safe. Nobody likes to lose, so it’s common to set goals well inside our comfort zone.

And let’s be honest. Cutting the trip by 50 percent seemed crazy at the time. But the truth is risky goals are the best goals.

Goal researchers have documented a powerful, direct connection between the difficulty of our goals and our performance, satisfaction, enthusiasm, and happiness.

Safe goals just aren’t compelling. If we want to win, we need to get beyond our natural urge to play it safe, step outside our comfort zones, and set big, difficult, challenging goals.

Myth No. 3: You Fail if You Fall Short

One of the reasons we set safe goals is because we’re fearful about failing. But that practically ensures we stay stuck.

What if the transport engineers fell short of their goal and only cut the Tokyo-Osaka trip by 40, 30, or 20 percent? They still would have gained time and created new efficiencies in the marketplace.

If we’re going to be brave enough to set big goals, we must also be brave enough to redefine failure.

Often we think that missing the benchmark means we’ve lost. But that’s only true if we’re measuring the gap. If we measure the gain, however, we can see how far we’ve come and what we’ve already won.

Think back to a big goal you’ve set and missed. Maybe it was finishing a book by a certain time or hitting a revenue goal.

Analyzing why you missed the goal is important. When we dig in, we often find ways of improving. But recognizing our progress is also important. And it can keep us motivated to stay on task.

As far as I’m concerned, the only true failure is not trying in the first place.

Myth No. 4: Writing Your Goals Is Unnecessary

A lot of people who have dreams never bother to write them down. They’d never build a house or take a serious vacation without blueprints or an itinerary of some sort, but they’ll trust their most significant hopes for the future to memory alone!

If you’re fine with stalling out and never making progress, then that’s a good way to do it. But if you want to make progress this year on your most important goals, you’ve got to write them down.

A study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found you’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. Other studies back her up.

Part of the benefit comes from engaging our intellect. When we go to the trouble of formulating something we’re engaging more than our desire. We’re also processing, self-checking, and analyzing.

That helps us build resolve around our goals. The longer we intentionally live with our goals the more we can internalize them and make them part of what motivates us.

Myth No. 5: Specificity Doesn’t Really Matter

What if our goals are challenging but vague? I hear people all the time who want big things but are uneasy about dialing it in and getting specific.

Setting narrow, well-defined goals can feel like boxing ourselves in. We like open horizons and lots of options. The narrower the goal, the more restricted we can feel.

But this is counterproductive. If we make our goals narrow enough, we can actually trigger the action we want to accomplish. This is especially helpful with daily habits we want to form—the typical things we set as New Year’s resolutions.

Saying “I’m going to exercise more this year” is a recipe for inaction. But saying “I’m going to run for 30 minutes at the park every weekday morning at 7 a.m.” sets us up to win.

Not only does it remove the guesswork about what kind of exercise, it also tells us exactly where and when we’re going to do it.

The when is important. By narrowing down our goal, we create an external cue that triggers action. When the clock strikes seven, we know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.

Participants in one UK study were told about the dangers of heart disease and that exercise could prevent it. Some worked out, some didn’t. But the statistics are amazing.

Without specific goals, participants had less than 40 percent success rate. But participants who narrowly defined their goals by adding where and when never forgot to exercise and almost always did. Their success rate was better than 90 percent.

This is the season to get clear about what we want to accomplish in the new year: peak fitness, deeper relationships, better income, more margin, whatever matters most to us.

If so far you’ve not made the kind of progress you’d like to see, it might have something to do with one of these five goal-setting myths.

Now that you know what doesn’t work, find out what does. I have a free video series that can help you accomplish more of what matters in 2016. Click here to view. It’s only available for a few more days.

Question: Have one of these myths kept you from achieving your goals in the past year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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