11 mistakes people make when goal-setting
Every new year comes with a lot of expectations. Many of us set New Year’s resolutions as a tradition. In fact, about 30% of Americans made a resolution for the New Year in 2021. New resolutions usually come with new goals. If you are anything like me and want to focus on your personal growth this year, you probably set a few goals for the year and are doing your best to achieve your goals. And if you want to be successful, you need to avoid several mistakes in goal setting people make.
January is usually a synonym for a new beginning, high hopes, and new life goals. We all want the New Year to be a new chapter in our lives and hope for the best for the 12 months to come. We all wake up on the 1st of January with a sudden success mindset. Unfortunately, very few people manage to keep that mindset and stick to their resolutions.
According to the latest studies, only 8% of people who make new resolutions stick to them. The same goes with goal setting. Very few people who set goals actually achieve them.
So why is it so hard to achieve goals? Many different factors can negatively impact your success. This post will discuss people’s primary mistakes when setting personal goals and why so many people fail to achieve them.
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Not reflecting enough
If you are serious about achieving goals, the first step you need to follow is to set the right goals. Your life goals should support a long-term vision of your dream life.
When setting goals, think first about the life you would love to wake up to. What is your vision of your dream life, and how can your new goals help support that plan?
If you set goals that do not inspire you, you are already planning for failure. Understanding your “why” will be crucial to your journey. Before setting personal goals, you should define the notion of success and what it implies to you.
Success might mean making more money, losing weight, or living a well-balanced life. We all have a different definition of success in life. You need to find yours before you set your goals. Your “why” needs to be stronger than your excuses.
This will help you stay motivated and stick to your plans to achieve goals and create your dream life.
Not defining SMART goals
Now that you have your definition of success, you can start goal setting. When defining goals, you first need to distinguish between short and long-term goals.
Short-term goals should be achievable in about 90 days, while long-term goals usually take over a year to be achieved. Think about the goals that can support your life transformation. Where would you like to be 3 years from now? Write it down and start working backward.
Let’s say you want to get healthy and fit in 24 months. You can define many short-term goals that will act as milestones toward these long-term goals.
You might want to start working out more and lose weight, but if this is how you set goals, you will never achieve them.
How you define your goals will significantly impact your capacity to reach them. Your goals need to serve a vision of your dream life, and you need a clear plan to make them real.
To ensure you will achieve these personal goals, you need to make them SMART. As you probably already know, SMART stands for :
- Specific goals: Set specific goals and narrow them down to simplify planning.
- Measurable goals: Set measurable goals to be able to track your progress.
- Attainable goals: Define attainable goals and make sure you can reach them in a reasonable amount of time.
- Realistic goals: Set realistic goals that support a broader vision of your ideal life.
- Time-bound goals: Define time-bound goals with a clear deadline to stay motivated and make yourself accountable.
Remember, planning is key to long-term success. You need to have a vision and plan around it to make it happen. Defining SMART goals will help you have a clearer picture and improve your planning.
Not setting appropriate deadlines
One of the first things you need to consider when setting goals is your deadlines. You need to give yourself enough time to see impactful results while not giving yourself too much time.
Giving yourself 90 days to achieve your goals is a perfect time frame. It will provide you with 12 weeks to work on your goals and reassess your plans if necessary, which is enough time to make fundamental changes.
Setting 1-year goals is usually not recommended unless you set multiple milestones and deadlines. The problem with yearly plans is that they give you way too much time to procrastinate.
Indeed 52 weeks is a lot of time. You can transform your life in 1 year, but you can also struggle with procrastination. A whole year gives you too many opportunities to say, “I’ll start on Monday.”
Think about it, when was the last time you actually started on Monday? Setting tight deadlines gives you a sense of urgency, and telling yourself that you will have achieved your goals in 12 weeks from now is far more motivating than having to work hard for 12 months.
Not defining an action plan
A goal without a plan is just a wish. If you are used to failing at achieving goals, a bad action plan might be one of the reasons.
Your plan should give you a clear vision of how long it will take you to achieve your goals. To create your action plan, you will have to work backward. Start with your goals and finish line. Then break down your big goals into smaller goals. These will be milestones in your journey.
You will have to stay focused to achieve challenging goals, which will be much easier if you have identified milestones and individual steps to follow to progress day by day. Most people skip this step and do not define a clear action plan. This is one of the reasons so many people fail when it comes to achieving their life goals.
An easy way to create your plan is to define all the habits that will support your goals, plan them during the week in a digital calendar such as Google Calendar and make the events recurrent.
If you want further information on how Google Calendar can help you stick to your habits, this post will give you a step-by-step process on how to set up your Google Calendar to achieve goals.
Making a one-week plan and repeating it one week at a time is a great way to work on your goals every day. It makes planning much easier, and we all know that complexity is the enemy of productivity. Keep things simple to ensure you stay focused on your goals.
If you struggle to create your action plan, my free eBook about How to plan for success will definitely help you!
Now that you have your goals, deadlines, and milestones, you are getting a clearer picture of the effort you will need to put into the process to achieve your goals.
Related read: How to balance life with time blocking
Not sticking to habits
Our habits, good and bad, have a tremendous impact on our lives and who we are. Bad habits can ruin our lives over time, while good habits can transform them for the better.
A secret high-achievers have in common is implementing daily habits and routines that support their goals. If you want to achieve goals, you need to add positive habits to your daily routines.
These habits will help you focus on your plan and keep the right mindset. Several types of habits can help you support your goals.
You should typically define 3 types of habits to ensure you focus on your long-term goals and make them happen.
- Active habits: I define “active habits” as all habits that need important time or energy investment. If we take our initial goal, an active habit would be working out 3-4 times a week. These habits need to be planned when you have the most energy/motivation to ensure you stick to them. The risk of quitting these habits due to a lack of motivation is high.
- Passive habits: these habits are also goal-driven but require less energy and can be followed even when your motivation is not sky-rising. It can be, for instance, reading a book about healthy eating, listening to a podcast, or looking for new recipes to try on social media. These habits support the same goal as active habits but can be followed without too much struggle, even after a hard day at work. There is no need to plan these habits based on your productivity peaks. You can simply engage in them when you have free time.
- Mindset: Many people ignore that they need to change their mindset to be successful. Changing your mindset does not necessarily imply concrete actions. However, it means working on how you react to experiences, positive or negative, and how you apprehend small things in your daily life. The habits that will help you transform your behaviors and mindset are linked to mindfulness. They usually imply meditation and affirmations.
You will probably have to define and implement several new habits to achieve your goals. These habits, when combined, will form routines that are a powerful way to transform your daily life.
Unfortunately, implementing habits and routines is not enough to guarantee your success and ensure you accomplish your goals. To make sure you stay consistent and work toward your life goals, you need to think further. This leads us to the next point on this list, systems.
Not creating systems
Defining healthy habits and routines is essential. However, there is an even more critical step that most people ignore when it comes to achieving goals. This step makes all the difference between high achievers and people who continuously fail.
Successful people create systems to support their goals. These systems will help you deal with external factors, focus and make things happen.
When setting goals, people’s biggest mistake is forgetting that things they cannot control might negatively impact their results.
They don’t know how to adapt their actions and behaviors to refocus on their success when facing them. This is one of the leading causes of failure to achieve goals. And this is why most people give up before accomplishing their goals.
Let’s take again our example of being healthy and fit in 24 months. To achieve this goal, you will have to work out 3-4 times a week and avoid junk food.
Now, think about all the things that can slow down or stop your progress. It can be anything from having a bad day/week/month at work and zero motivation to work out, not having time to cook and order takeout, being invited by clients to the restaurant a couple of times per week, etc.
If you don’t have a system in place before you get hit by these unforeseen events, they will slow you down, and you will not be able to stick to your plans. The problem is that when setting goals, we usually plan for the best and set expectations without having a strategy to deal with what could go wrong.
Remember Murphy’s law. If anything can go wrong, it will. Losers and winners can have the same goals.
What will make you successful is how you set goals and the systems you implement to achieve them.
In our example, systems you can implement to face external factors are :
- Meal prepping to avoid ordering take-out after a hard day at work
- Planning workouts in the morning to ensure a bad day doesn’t slow you down
- Implementing a relaxing night routine to improve sleep quality
Think about it, when setting goals, you are already planning for the best. If you forget to consider the worst-case scenario, you will plan for failure. To stick to your habits and routines, you need to make them easy to follow.
What’s the difference between habits, routines, and systems?
The difference between habits, routines, and systems might not be crystal clear at this point. But you will understand the power of systems when you will start to implement them.
A routine is made of habits, and a system is made of routines. Systems do not only represent what you do but how you do it.
If we take the example of meal-prepping, a system would be :
- Look for recipes for the whole week
- Create your weekly Menu
- Print or save the recipes
- Write your shopping list
- Organize/clean your containers
- Shop for groceries
- Meal-prep on Sunday
Creating your own systems implies finding ways to make it easier to stick to your habits. As you rehearse your systems, you will find unique ways to improve them to make your life easier.
It will then be easier to stick to your habits day by day. Even after achieving your goals, your systems might stay. They will make you more productive and organized, which will help you develop a successful mindset.
Another thing that can impact your ability to stick to new habits is when you schedule them. This is why you should know about chronotypes.
Not knowing your chronotype
A chronotype is a classification system based on our circadian rhythm used to identify sleep and productivity patterns.
Your chronotype will give you a lot of information on when your productivity peaks occur during the day and how you can leverage them to work smarter.
Although we are all different, there are 4 main chronotypes represented by the following animals :
- Bears are the most productive before 2 pm. They lose focus in the afternoon and should plan their important tasks between 10 am and 2 pm.
- Wolves need a few hours to be fully awake and find their motivation. They are usually more productive in the afternoon and should plan creative/light tasks in the morning.
- Lions are goal-driven, highly productive, and can accomplish massive work before noon. Lions like to kick start the day early in the morning, need a nap in the afternoon, and rest in the evening.
- Dolphins are often dealing with anxiety issues. They have trouble finding sleep and a hard time waking up in the morning. Dolphins should plan light/creative tasks in the morning and deep work in the afternoon and evening.
Knowing your chronotype will help you work smarter and plan activities that require the most energy during your productivity peaks. It will also help you identify when you are the most creative and when to implement your night routine to improve sleep quality.
Taking this information into account when implementing your habits and routines will help you make it easier to stick to them.
This is why you need to know your chronotype and plan your active habits accordingly. Remember, active habits are the habits that require the most effort and that you might struggle to follow. Planning them when you are the most productive will ensure you stick to them.
To discover your chronotype, you can take this free quiz.
Not implementing a tracking system
Implementing new habits and routines is a challenging process. You need to implement a tracking system to help you ensure you are moving in the right direction and motivate yourself.
You can create a habit tracker in a notebook, download a printable one, or use an app to make sure you stick to your habits daily. Writing your habits down and tracking them is a great way to ensure you stay consistent.
Did you know that, according to CNBC, people who write down their goals and dreams daily have 42% more chances to achieve them? Yes, 42%!
Writing down your goals helps you stay focused and remember your “why“. This is an easy way to motivate yourself.
Tracking your progress will also help you make adjustments to your routines. It will be easier for you to identify habits you struggle to follow.
Giving them careful consideration will help you make the necessary changes to ensure you stick to them. It can be, for instance, changing the time of your routine.
If you struggle to work out after work, the simple fact of working out in the morning can help you follow your routine with greater assiduity.
If you want to achieve your goals according to your plans, you will have to stick to your habits daily. Tracking your progress will be key to staying focused and motivated.
Not changing your mindset
Life is just as good as your mindset. Your mindset and beliefs are important factors you need to change when you want to complete goals.
We have already discussed how bad habits can negatively impact your progress. These bad habits can truly ruin your projects. A bad mindset will do the same.
It is pretty easy for most of us to define success and create goals based on this definition. Unfortunately, most people do not achieve their goals because they simply do not think they can do it.
A bad mindset can be your worst enemy when it comes to goal achievement. Success affects a lot of aspects of your personality. Being successful will give you extra confidence, make you happier, and even give you a sense of purpose.
Negative beliefs about yourself will do the exact opposite. It might be complicated to control this little voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. So, how are you supposed to deal with it?
Well, the best way to do so is to prove you wrong by sticking to your habits and plans.
If in order to develop good habits and achieve your goals, you need to fight against your limiting beliefs, and the best way to do it is through habits and goals, you might think you’re stuck in a loop from hell…
Why you should fake it until you make it
This is kind of true, and the best way to break that cycle is by faking it until you make it. It is as simple as that.
If you are trying to change your world and think you cannot do it, ask yourself what you would do if you were the person you wanted to be.
Remember our goal of being healthier and fitter? The next time you need to make a choice, ask yourself what a healthy and fit person would do.
- When having breakfast, ask yourself what a healthy person would eat.
- After work, ask yourself what a healthy person would do. Binge-watch Netflix or go for a run?
Every time you have to make a decision that might impact your goals, ask yourself what you would do if you were already the person you dream of being.
By acting like a healthy person, you will slowly prove that you can stick to your routines and transform your life, and will gradually become a healthy person.
This confidence will break your limiting beliefs and allow you to become that person. Every good decision helps you move forward.
To transform your life and achieve your life goals, you need to develop a good mindset. This capacity to change your mindset is a superpower that will help you create your dream life.
Not being inspired enough
Inspiration is key when it comes to setting goals and achieving them. Of course, you need to set specific, time-bound goals and realistic goals. Nevertheless, every long-term goal you set needs to make sense based on your life plan.
Goal achievement is much easier when you are inspired and find support in this process. Ideally, we should all be able to find support from our loved ones.
Unfortunately, it is not always the case. This is why finding a community with the same goals and aspirations will be a great help.
Connect with people who want to achieve the same goals or who have already succeeded. Achieving your goals will be much easier with the proper support. Feeling supported can be genuinely inspiring. It will help you show up to the gym even when you don’t feel like it.
Setting life goals can be difficult because it is a process you have to initiate by yourself, and it is often a lonely process. It implies reflecting on your past, your successes and failures, and being honest with yourself.
You will have your struggles in this journey, this is why you need to find the right support to keep you going no matter the obstacles. The good news is that with the help of social media, it is now easier than ever to find communities sharing the same interests and connect with them. This can be done very easily with Facebook groups.
There is another great tool to find inspiration, and as you are visiting sundayrainday.com, chances are you are already using it daily: Pinterest.
Pinterest is a great search engine to find inspiration and stay motivated. The easiest way to leverage the app is to follow people with the same interests and create (vision) boards.
This tool will help you stay inspired and motivated when you don’t feel like doing anything.
Remember about passive habits? Looking for inspiration on Pinterest is a passive habit that can help you create your plan and stay motivated.
Defining too many goals
When you want to set goals, it is easy to get excited and define too many goals to achieve. You need to keep in mind that some goals will require more energy and time than others. Hence, achieving them might be impossible if you have too many goals set over a short period.
Goal setting is an exciting process. It is easy to create a huge list of things you want to accomplish. Nevertheless, you will probably have to prioritize your goals.
You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Hence, you need to define a realistic number of goals if you want to make sure you will achieve them.
This is also why you should set quarterly goals instead of yearly goals. By setting 90-day goals and focusing on each of them, you will be able to achieve much more than you would in 365 days.
Again, yearly goals are usually doomed to failure because there is no urgency for 365-day goals. You have 52 entire weeks to procrastinate.
Finding the perfect number of goals you can keep up with really depends on the goals themselves. Focusing on 3 quarterly goals is usually enough to create momentum and help you transform yourself through good habits.
The whole goal-setting process might seem overwhelming at first, but it is a mandatory step when working on your personal growth. Many people fail to achieve their goals because they are not genuinely inspired by them or do not follow a clear plan.
The most important part of the goal-setting process is how you define your goals and the strategies you decide to implement to achieve them. If you need help, I have created a free 62-page eBook on planning for success and leveraging simple tips to achieve your goals fast.