The 10 Biggest Mistakes People Make in Setting Goals

If you are anything like me, you’re already thinking about the year ahead. How will it be different than this one? What might be possible? What do I want to accomplish?

Missing the Target

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It’s time to begin thinking about goal-setting for 2014.

I don’t know about you, but I have been going through this annual exercise since my second semester of college, when a friend introduced me to the concept. Almost immediately, I loved the concept and saw the potential.

But I have not always done it well. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way. I have also watched numerous other people do it poorly. (That’s one of the reasons why I put together three free videos on goal-setting. They won’t be available free for long.)

Here are the top ten most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to goal-setting:

  1. They don’t write them down. Unless a goal is written, it is merely an aspiration—lifeless and devoid of power. Once you commit it to writing, you set something in motion. You clarify what you want and begin focusing on how to attain it.
  2. They create too many. An old Chinese proverb says, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” While you probably need more than a single goal, you need to stay focused on a manageable number of them. I recommend no more than 7–10.
  3. They only set them for one area of their life. Most people are accustomed to the idea of setting career goals. But life is far more than your job. If you are going to be happy and fulfilled, you need goals in each of the major areas of life—spiritual, physical, marital, relational, etc.
  4. They don’t make them specific. Most goals—even written ones—suffer from being too vague. “I want to write a book” or “I want a better marriage” are too general. Which book do you want to write? How do you want to improve your marriage?
  5. They don’t make them measurable. The only way to know if you have achieved a goal is to quantify it. “Lose 25 pounds” is much better than “lose weight.” “Earn 10% more than I did last year” is better than “earn more money.” When in doubt, assign a number or a percentage.
  6. They don’t assign a due date. So often the important gets sacrificed on the altar of the urgent. A deadline is one way to create urgency and force yourself to pay attention to what’s important. Without a deadline, there’s little pressure to get it done. It’s easy to procrastinate.
  7. They don’t keep them visible. How many times have you written down a set of goals and never looked at them again? I’ve done it plenty of times. That’s why you need a plan to keep them visible, whether that means reviewing them daily, weekly, or at some other regular interval.
  8. They don’t stretch out of their comfort zone. Safe goals are boring goals. Unless we set our goals outside our comfort zone, we won’t find them compelling enough to actually follow through and achieve them. They shouldn’t be unrealistic, but they should be challenging.
  9. They don’t make them personally compelling. When you pursue a meaningful goal, it is exhilarating. Accomplishing it, even more so. But the “messy middle” is where most of us get stuck. This is why we need to write down a set of motivations for each goal identifying why it is important and what is at stake.
  10. They don’t identify the next action. You don’t need an elaborate action plan for each goal. (Often this can just be a fancy way of procrastinating.) But you do need to identify the next action, so you can initiate and maintain momentum.

Chances are, you are going to live through 2014, one way or another. It can be another year just like this year and last. Or it can be something different … something extraordinary … something amazing! The choice is yours.

So, if you are serious about avoiding the mistakes I just mentioned and getting the tools you need to make this your best year ever, check out my three free videos on goal-setting.

Question: Which of these mistakes have you made in setting goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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