Common Mistakes About Setting Goals

If you are older than twelve, someone in your life has talked to you about setting goals. I picked the age of twelve because by then you will have been involved with sports or an extra-curricular activity at school, you focused on your academics, or maybe even had a couple of goals related to your friends or your appearance. You cannot get through life without setting goals. How much emphasis you place on achieving them or whether you achieve them is another subject, but every single human being sets goals, most of us daily perhaps without recognizing we do.

Sometime during your high school years you begin to think about what you will do after graduating. Do you go on to college, trade school, or get a job? Whatever choice you make you set goals to get there. Once you are employed we all set goals. Maybe it’s a promotion or a skill we want to learn, a company we want to work for, a compensation level…all sorts of considerations. And of course we set personal goals such as saving money, buying a house, losing weight, a vacation, etc., etc.

Go to the Internet and type in the words ‘setting goals’ or ‘goal setting’ and dozens of pages come up on how to set goals, achieving goals, SMART goals, software to manage and track goals…you name it…it’s a topic that attracts a lot of interest. What is missing though is about mistakes that we make when we set goals. These mistakes cause us not to achieve our goals or get so frustrated that we simply abandon them before we get to the finish line.

What are the mistakes made when setting goals?

  1. Is this your goal or someone else’s? Professionally we often have goals that our boss or company ‘suggests’ we adopt. But that doesn’t mean you can’t push back. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in conversations with someone who tells me they need to get promoted or have a specific position within the company. When I asked what makes this important to them I often learn it’s a spouse or parent or boss pushing them. Or they think it says something negative about them if they don’t reach for the stars. Whatever your goal is make sure it’s yours and not someone else’s or the likelihood that you will accomplish it diminishes significantly.
  2. Not placing value on the process and just the result. I am truly all about achieving goals AND too often we simply focus on the result we want to achieve and forget it’s a process. For example, if you have a goal of increasing revenues by 10% you will celebrate when you achieve this. What if you only reach 9.5% growth? Does that mean you were a failure? Of course not. Focus on what you have to do to achieve the goal and all the steps you went through. This is the process and it tells you a lot about what you can expect going forward.
  3. Not considering who we have to become to achieve the goal. This isn’t about skills you need, it’s about your thinking. What shifts in your thinking do you need to make? Is it moving from it’s possible to it will? Or from it’s not likely but I’m going to try? What is holding you back? What needs to change in your thinking? Who do you need to become to achieve the goal?
  4. Ignoring resources you need. Let’s say you want to run a marathon. What resources do you need? Do you have the right shoes? Where are you going to find the time to practice running? Is there something you have to say no to in order to create the space? It’s no different with your professional goals. Before committing to a goal make sure you know the resources you need, and they are available to you. Don’t set yourself up for missing your goal because you lacked what you needed to make it attainable.
  5. Not setting milestones. Milestones help in many ways. It can be challenging to stay motivated month after month, waiting or a point in time in the future to see success. Seeing progress helps overcome this. Along the way you may discover the goal needs tweaking. I’m not suggesting change it completely, but there are situations you can’t predict that will impact you reaching the goal in the time frame you identified. The milestones also provide an opportunity for you to examine what’s working and what isn’t. Did you underestimate the resources you need? Are the marketing activities you are using to drive business to the website not working as you expected? Or, conversely, is there one marketing activity driving a ton of traffic and others less so and you can drop?
  6. Write it down. Like creating a plan, setting goals and achieving them most often happens when we write them down. There is science behind this concept. Writing things down helps lodge in your long-term memory, not short-term memory, which enables your mind to not only keep track but organize in a way that improves results.
  7. Share your goals with others. Even if we write our goals down we often don’t share with others. Sharing your goals helps. They can help you stay accountable. Perhaps they ask you questions or provide insights that have you rethink the goal, the timing, or something else. A big benefit to sharing is the imprint it makes on your mind and commitment.
  8. We forget to celebrate. Most of us are guilty of this. Instead of focusing on the success we have achieved, we focus on what’s not yet done, how far we still have to go, or what didn’t work. Make celebration part of your goal. If you got up and exercised instead of staying in bed, celebrate. If you did everything on your to do list moving you towards your goal, celebrate. When you achieve 9.5% revenue growth instead of 10% (as mentioned in #2), celebrate.

Jim Rohn says, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” I agree AND we have to be sure we set ourselves up for success. If you set goals without considering the eight mistakes I have outlined above you may still reach your goal, but it will be more of a struggle than it needs to be. At least as important is that you may give up on your goal when you don’t need to, if you had been more deliberate and reflective when setting it in the first place. Goal setting isn’t simply deciding you want something to happen. You have to be in the right place mentally, you have to own it, know what you need to make it possible, and assess and evaluate along the way.

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