Setting Goals? Avoid these 3 Deadly Mistakes

goal setting mistakes

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

You work hard to meet targets.

You aim high and dream big.

You are ambitious and motivated.

Yet, you consistently fall short of achieving your goals.

Don’t you feel like kicking yourself? Who wouldn’t?

Don’t do it yet, though.

Focus instead on the process of setting goals.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
– Zig Ziglar

A well-set goal, like a well-oiled plan, can help you realize your dreams faster, be it starting a new business, working towards that promotion or eating healthy.

Just remember to avoid these three deadly mistakes when setting your goals:

Mistake #1: Setting vague goals

I want to earn more money.
I want more time.
I want to be healthy.
Great goals, but do you know what’s wrong with them?

They are very vague.

Goals need to be defined clearly. Visualize the end result as if it had already happened.

For instance…

Vague goal: I want to earn more money.

Specific goal: I want to increase my salary by 50% within one year.

Vague goal: I want more time.

Specific goal: I want to gain 30 extra minutes every day.

Get the drift?

In order to be specific, write down your goals in detail.

Research shows that writing down your goals helps in reaching them faster.

Writing brings clarity to the mind and states your intention, and that gives direction to thoughts and actions. The more specific the goal, the more inclined you will be to create an execution plan.

Mistake #2: Setting goals without an execution plan

Remember that famous Eisenhower quote?

After the successful invasion of Normandy in World War II, when Eisenhower was asked about the importance of planning he said: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Even if you create specific goals, lack of clear deadlines, schedules, and the actionable steps needed to reach them will see you abandoning them midway.

You need to plan for the mini-goals and daily action needed to get closer to your target.

Have you heard of a method called backward planning?

It’s a method used by the military to reach goals faster.

Here’s how it works:

  • Once you have clearly defined the goal and its outcome, think about the last thing you’ll need to do to achieve that outcome.
  • Then figure out what you’ll need to do just before that step, and the step before that, and so on, until you get to the first step.
  • This is the step you need to focus on.

How about giving this a shot today?

Mistake #3: Setting too many goals

“You can do anything but not everything,” – productivity expert David Allen in the book Making It All Work.

Can I be totally honest with you?

If you tend to make long lists addressing every area of personal life and work where change is desirable, you are setting yourself up for failure. Big time!

A 2012 study titled Too Much Of A Good Thing found that “when people juggle multiple goals, completing one task means neglecting or postponing others, which reduces the expected likelihood of ever achieving all goals”.

Fewer well-defined goals have the benefit of allowing you to focus your energies on a small number of actionable steps, making you far more effective.

The same goes for the sub-goals you have under each objective. If you have three major goals but each has 10 mini-ones, it will not be feasible to keep track and consistently work on all of them.

The key here is to have a handful of goals that you can remember.

Choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently.


Successful goals are SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound). Be smart when setting them, flexible about the process of achieving them and consistent in your approach.

It will need a little work, but…

As Lord Havershot from P.G. Wodehouse’s novel Laughing Gas says: “And little by little and bit by bit, before you know where you are—why, there you are, don’t you know.”

To know more about setting goals and other productivity hacks, download the free e-book, ‘Productivity Secrets of 7 Billionaires’ below…

What other mistakes do you think should we avoid when setting goals?.

7 thoughts on “Setting Goals? Avoid these 3 Deadly Mistakes”

    • That’s one of the most common mistakes Linda! It’s important to identify a course of action that will deliver the maximum value and focus on that, rather than try to juggle too many things. Thanks for commenting!

  1. Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” presents a great way to keep track of goals. In my opinion, if you look at the major life areas, form goals about each, then do the proper tracking, that’s better than only covering a few areas. If you leave out major life areas, then they will slide down hill while only those areas of focus might improve. Be holistic and cover all of the bases!

    • Hey Don,
      Thanks for dropping by! At the end of the day, we need to ask these questions – am I making progress towards all my goals? Am I fulfilled?
      If you can manage to take care of everything – that’s awesome. However, that’s usually not easy for everyone. If the answer to the above 2 questions is no, we need to revisit our goals and frame new – and preferably fewer ones!

  2. I like having multiple goals at once, but I agree that having too many goals is counterproductive. I try to narrow it down to one major goal for 2-3 different areas of life and that works well for me.


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