When it comes to achieving great things, setting the goal should be the easy bit. You decide what you want, come up with an awesome action plan, and then get to work. In reality, setting goals is deceptively tricky. In fact, much of our success depends on setting the right goal in the right way. Get this part wrong and you’re likely to miss the target.
Here are four of the major mistakes people make when setting their goals that ultimately lead to their failure.
1. Your goal is too big
You dream big. You want it all and you want it now. But setting your sights too high too soon can make achieving your goals impossible. Yes, you can dream of running your own multi-billion dollar company one day, or owning a million dollar home, but it is important to recognize the difference between an end goal and a means goal.
End goals are the big dreams – the career, the house, the vacations, the impact you want to have in the world. Means goals are the smaller journey goals you’ll need to set yourself in order to get there. Let’s say you want that billion dollar company. That’s the dream – the end goal. You start with deciding what industry you want to build in, starting a small company, perhaps going to business school – each of these smaller milestones are means goals that will help you get to the end.
Create your dream and build your vision. But when it comes to setting actual goals to work towards, go for the journey goals that will help you get there. Think logically about the next step along the way, building on each previous step, so that you have an action plan and progression that will take you where you want to go. Trying to jump straight to the end goal will leave you overwhelmed, unsure where to start, and ultimately defeated.
2. Your goal is too vague
Have you ever set yourself a goal to lose weight? Or perhaps to make more money? Or spend more time with family? Then later on you find out that you haven’t managed to make it happen? It could be because you are being too vague.
Lots of people want to lose weight. But how do you plan for that without knowing how much weight you want to lose? You could lay off the snacks for a couple of weeks and drop a few ounces, maybe even half a pound if youâre lucky. But is that what you really meant though? Or did you really want to lose a few pounds? Or more? If you fail to define exactly how much weight, you’ll struggle to know if you are doing enough or taking the right actions to achieve it.
Same thing goes for making more money. Let’s say you set a goal to make more money, and you get a 10 cent an hour pay rise. It’s more money – so you’ve achieved your goal right? Technically yes, but I bet you were aiming for more than a measly 10 cents an hour more. Perhaps you wanted an extra $500 a month, or to double your salary. Setting a specific goal guides your actions. If you wanted a 10 cent an hour raise your action plan might be ‘continue working in my current job until the next annual cost of living pay rise’, whereas if you want to double your salary your action plan is most likely going to include looking for alternative employment or starting a side business.
Defining the goal specifically in terms of the actual outcome you want to achieve will not only help guide your action planning but give you a way to know if you’ve actually achieved it!
3. Your goal is requires you to either do something you don’t like or give up something you do like
Negative goals are the worst. Trying to force yourself to achieve something that you just don’t want to do sucks. Like starting a new gym routine when your current workout is lifting cake-to-face. Or another common one is giving up smoking (some people really like smoking and don’t actually want to give it up!) or giving up treats, or trying to force yourself to become one of those ‘early risers’ and join the 5am club to be more productive.
Focusing on the negative side of your goals almost guarantees failure. Sure, there are some superhuman individuals with unbelievable discipline (Dwayne ‘The Rock’Johnson and David Goggins, Iâm looking at you) that can make themselves do whatever they set their minds to. But for most of us regular people, trying to summon the discipline and motivation to get to work on something we dread is a gargantuan task.
Yet, for us mere mortals, there is a simple hack that we can use to help motivate us to get these types of goals achieved.
Look for the positives.
There is always a positive spin that we can use to almost trick our brains into believing we are gaining, not losing, by following through. You’re not denying yourself cake, youâre getting to eat all these yummy, delicious, healthy foods. You’re not slogging it out at the gym, you’re getting fit so that you can keep up with the kids (and perhaps even beat them for once!) You’re not giving up smoking, you’re giving yourself healthy, easier breathing.
We like to get stuff. It’s simple as that. We don’t like to give up stuff. Turning your goal into a gain instead of a loss will work wonders for your motivation.
4. You don’t actually want it
Who determined what your goals should be? Was it you? Or was it someone else? We are each influenced throughout our lives by the dreams and desires of others. Growing up, our parents were the key influence over our lives, and as we got older we looked to peers and society for who we should be.
The entire advertising industry is designed to influence your decisions and get you to take action (usually buy a product or service). We are constantly bombarded with commercial messages, social media, celebrities, and our own family and friends trying to influence our choices.
Did you choose your career, or did your parents? Or perhaps a well-meaning teacher that said ‘you’re good at XYZ, you should go into this career’? Are you trying to lose weight because you genuinely want to, or because all of those Instagram influencer say you should so you can wear their clothes and drink cocktails by the pool all day? Do you even want to drink cocktails by the pool all day, or would you rather curl up with a cuppa and a book?
Often when we set a goal and fail to take any real action towards it, it is because deep down we don’t really want it. It just doesn’t align with our values or fit who we are. We may even self-sabotage in an unconscious effort to not achieve it.
Just because someone says you should want something, doesnât mean you have to. There is such pressure to keep striving for more, more, more that it’s become socially unacceptable to say ‘hey, I’m happy as I am thanks’ Maybe your true dream goal is something simple, and that’s OK. It’s OK to play small. Better to play small and achieve your true dreams that to keep chasing after someone else’s goal and end up not playing at all.