10 Traps to Avoid When Goal Setting

10 Traps to Avoid when Goal Setting

Goal setting seems easy to most, but if you get it wrong the exercise is simply creating a to do list that never gets done. There is much more to it than just figuring out what you want and writing it down. Setting goals is fraught with traps and pitfalls that can easily derail your plans. I have talked already about how telling others about your goals can actually hurt you, rather than help. It’s time to take a deeper look at some of the other potential traps you can fall into while goal setting… and how you can avoid them.

1. Setting Goals That Mean Nothing to You
Your goals should be important to you. If you want to achieve them, they should relate to your personal hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Learning how to play golf is great, but doing it just to catch your boss’s attention will leave you feeling burnt out or simply unmotivated. For instance, setting a goal to meet your company’s new performance standard will feel like a hollow victory if you have no personal stake in the matter. Your explanation for the “why” should have conviction behind it.

2. Setting Goals That Are Not Specific Enough
When you are just getting started in a new endeavor, it can feel like the most important thing is just to do something, to get the ball rolling so to speak. For example, deciding to “make a positive change” in your life is good, but after a few months you may start wondering how to actually go about that. Be specific in what you want to accomplish so that you have milestones to move towards. As you start crossing items off your list, you will feel more empowered and more motivated to continue on. Otherwise, achieving your goals may be more akin to being stranded in unfamiliar territory without a map, than moving towards a particular destination.

3. Setting Immeasurable Goals
One of the biggest metrics in business is ROI — return on investment. Basically, ROI is a measure of how much money you get back for every dollar you spend. Calculating ROI can be difficult for companies if there are no quantifiable ways to measure the return. Goal setting is much the same. You cannot achieve your goals if they are so abstract that you cannot properly evaluate whether you are making progress. Think about goals such as “be happier” or “be healthy”: when it comes down to it, how do you define “happier” or “healthy”?

4. Setting Goals that Are Too Big
There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, but there is a risk of reducing the chance of achieving your goals when you make them too big. Becoming the next bestselling author, like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, does not happen overnight. Take a look at your big dreams and try to pinpoint smaller, achievable goals that you can achieve along the way. If you want to be an author, set a goal to attend some publishing conventions, or have a short story published in an anthology or literary magazine. Or maybe start with simply finishing the edits on your novel.

5. Having No Set Plan of Action
You want to lose 30 pounds, or establish a better work-life balance. But how exactly are you going to accomplish these things? Once you have clearly defined, measurable goals, you should think about the means to achieving them. If the goal is weight loss, are you going to follow a diet or start a new gym routine? Does a better work-life balance mean cutting back on overtime or making a commitment to leaving work problems at the door when you arrive home?

6. Underestimating How Long It Takes to Complete a Goal
Having realistic, clearly measurable goals will do wonders for ensuring you set a reasonable time frame for your accomplishments. If you have started a new gym routine with weight lifting, it may takes weeks, or even months, before you start seeing visible results. If you are planning to quit your job to start a business of your own, you may encounter stumbling blocks that delay your plans. Be realistic and allow for delays and speed bumps, the wins will come.

7. Approaching Goals from a Negative Mindset
Your mindset means a lot! When you set a goal, pay attention to the context because if a goal has negative thoughts attached to it, you may feel less motivated to achieve it. For instance, rather than setting a goal to remove negative influences from your life, focus instead on surrounding yourself with more positive people. This will keep you from dwelling on what you are taking away (which can be unpleasant), and instead keep your attention on what you are adding.

8. Not Writing Anything Down
You sat down and thought about everything you want and how you plan to get it. But in the process of going about achieving your goals, you may forget what they were in the first place. Write down your goals, including the steps to achieve them and your deadlines. Then put it somewhere you can see it. Look at it often to remind yourself what you are working toward, and use it to evaluate your progress.

9. Refusing to Adapt
You may in the course of your goal setting discover that what you thought you wanted and what you truly want are two different things. Soul searching is integral to the early stages of your goal setting. But it should be an ongoing process. Say, for example, that you return to school to earn a degree in marketing but find that business management is more to your liking. Adapt your goal to make the switch in programs. After all, goal setting should be about enriching your life. Also, do not focus on just one goal to the detriment of everything else, including your relationships with your support network. Remember that balance is an important component of peak performance.

10. Not Actually Following Through
Goal setting is planning — it is the starting line in a long but meaningful race. Once you have set your goals, it is time to make them a reality. Procrastination will keep you from achieving your potential, and the longer you wait, the easier it is to keep saying “tomorrow” or “next week” or “next month”. If you have done your goal setting properly, you will have a clear roadmap for what next steps to take. Be honest about what you can handle but still stretch yourself, then follow through.

Keep all of this in mind and you will be on your way to achieving your goals in short order.

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