I’m over reading about how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. That’s right, I said it!
There’s definitely some good goal setting thoughts inside of the smart goals acronym, though I’m not 100% on board with all of it. But I feel like you can’t read a single thing about goal setting right now without running into smart goals such-and-such.
Like I said, I’m over it. Let’s talk about other goal setting matters.
Specifically, I want to talk about goal setting mistakes for all of us to be aware of as we set new goals. These are all mistakes that I’ve run into over the last couple of years as I’ve set my own goals. By recognizing them, I think we can be
smarter more intelligent about how we set our goals so that we can set ourselves up for success! (insert fist bump)
5 Goal Setting Mistakes to Avoid
1. Setting the Wrong Goals for YOU
YOU are one smart, unique, amazing cookie. You are at a unique period in your life right now (whatever that period may be!). All of this means that the goals that you set need to be right for you and right for this time in your life. There are a lot of great goals you could potentially set, but they are all going to require some of your time and energy.
A lot of women set a goal to wake up earlier because it seems like a great goal to set. However, if you’ve got an infant and are barely hanging onto your sanity because of lack of sleep, this might not be the goal for you at this point in your life.
I personally can think of no great reason why I’d want to wake up earlier. Sure I could read or exercise, but I prefer to do those things in the evening and I have no trouble fitting them in. It’s not the right goal for me.
You might set a goal to get a raise or a promotion, but maybe the right goal for you would really be to take courses that will allow you to work from home in the near future.
There’s a quote that goes something like this: If you’re digging a hole in the wrong spot, digging it deeper isn’t going to help.
Don’t spend your time and energy in the wrong area.
If you want help figuring out the right goals for you, I love love the PowerSheets Goal Planner from Cultivate What Matters. I will sing its praises to anyone who will listen. There are prep pages that help you uncover the right goals for you at this point in your life.
I tend to focus on work and financial goals, but in the past year the PowerSheets helped me realize that I actually needed to spend more time and energy on goals to improve my mental health, relationships, and to have more fun!
Make sure you are setting the right goals for YOU!
2. Giving Yourself Too Much Time
I think it’s because of our tendency to set New Year’s Resolutions, which means we have the whole year to make things happen, but a big mistake is to give yourself too much time to achieve a goal. A year is too long! It’s enough time to forget about the goal and then truly not have enough time when you remember it again at the end of November.
After reading The 12 Week Year, I started setting shorter term goals and I’ve been shocked at how much I can get done when I don’t give myself much time. The book teaches you to look at the next 12 weeks as a whole year. You set your goals and break them up into what you’re going to do every single week to accomplish them in time. When there are only 12 weeks, there’s no time to mess around with worthless tasks. You must focus.
So say you have a massive goal that will take a long time. Then you would break that goal up into smaller chunks and give yourself deadlines for it. If you’ve got $100,000 worth of debt, that’s going to take a while to pay off. But you could set a 3-month goal. And then another one after that. The shorter goals keep you focused along the way.
Last month, I decided on a work project that I wanted to make happen. At first I thought that it was a project for the beginning of next year. Then I decided to start working on it now. I thought it would take about a month. Then I started time-blocking my weeks and scheduling out each individual task for the project and giving myself a set amount of time for each part.
The project that I thought would get done next year took me 10 days once I gave myself shorter deadlines and focused.
3. Setting Too Many Goals
Alright, if you’re going to give yourself less time to achieve your goals, it makes sense that you don’t want to be working on too many goals at once. Focused time and energy can do amazing things!
As we paid off our debt this year, I didn’t work on any other financial goals except for the ones that would support the main goal, like sticking to our budget. By focusing all of our energy (and money) on this one goal, we accomplished it faster than expected! We didn’t set other savings goals and we didn’t go on vacation. All of the focus was on the one goal.
The great thing about setting shorter goals the The 12 Week Year suggests is that you will be able to get to other goals because you’re only working on your current goals for a few weeks.
You can say to yourself that reading is not a huge priority to me right now because I’m working on my goal of going to bed earlier so that I get more sleep. In my next goal-setting period, I can switch goals and work on something else.
4. Focusing on the Outcome Rather Than Your Actions
If you want to lose 30 pounds, you don’t actually have control over your body losing the weight. Losing weight is the outcome that you want. You do have control over what you eat, what you drink, and how much you exercise. Those are the actions.
While you do need to pinpoint the outcome that you want, it’s no good to focus on the outcome. You need to focus on the actions you can do that will make that outcome a reality, right?
Maybe you want to be fluent in French. That’s the outcome that you want, but what are you actually going to do to get there? You might use a language learning app daily, take weekly lessons, listen to French-speaking podcasts, and get a French pen pal (do pen pals still exist?). Those are the actions that you can focus on and eventually those actions will get you to your outcome.
This goal setting mistake is why I love talking about habits.
Anytime I set a goal, I look for what habits I can develop in my daily life that will get me to my goal. I’ve been working on the habit of using a meditation app daily to aide my mental health goals. I’ve been tracking our spending daily to aide our financial goals. These habits are the actions that get me to the outcome I want!
5. Playing It Too Safe
I heard someone talking about goals say that if your goals are realistic and easily achievable, you shouldn’t set them as goals — you should just already be doing them! An interesting thought, right?
I think we often play things too safe with our goals and then get bored, forget, or just don’t care enough to make them happen. Or we make the previous mistake and set too many at once so that we don’t have enough time, energy, and focus to make any single one of the happen.
This year, I was shocked when we achieved an unachievable goal. I wanted to pay off all of our debt in 2018. When I ran the numbers on how much we owed and how much extra money we would have each month to put towards that debt, it was impossible. There was no way to make it happen. But I wanted it so bad that I set the goal anyway! As of October, just ten months later, we paid off all of the debt!
By setting a huge goal we were motivated to do our very best to achieve it. When we earned more money, we didn’t spend it on random stuff like we normally would have, we put it toward the debt. This one ginormous goal gave us focus throughout the year.
There are times when pushing yourself to reach for a bigger goal than you think is possible causes you to focus everything you’ve got to make it happen. If you really want it, push yourself to go a little bigger in your goal setting.
The way I see it, even if you don’t quite reach your extra big goal, you’ll probably make it further than you would have with a safe, achievable goal. When we set our debt payoff goal, I knew that we’d pay off far more debt by going big than if we set a goal for what we knew we could safely achieve.
(Mozzie posing with our debt free sign ⇓ )
The past few years have brought some exciting changes to my life because of the goals I set.
I’ve actually been surprised over and over again by my own abilities and what I can accomplish when I set the right goals for me, give myself less time to achieve them, focus all of my energy on just a few goals, decide what actions will give me my desired outcome, and go bigger than I think I can handle.
Understanding these goal setting mistakes has changed the way that I set my goals and has me excited about the ways I may surprise myself in the future. It has also shown me that a lot of my big dreams that seemed far away and impossible might not be so impossible!
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