Hello there! Whether you’re reading this “in real-time” with the end of the year approaching, or later on, now is always a great time to set some goals! However, there are quite a few goal-setting mistakes to avoid. How do I know? Because I’ve made them all at some point or another! So stay until the end when I share with you the system I created for what to do instead!
Mistake #1: setting goals that aren’t a good fit for you
There are loads of goals we could set at any one time: run a marathon, write a novel, launch our own business… But just because we can set them, doesn’t mean we should! It’s easy to get inspired by other people’s successes that we see on Instagram and YouTube. And then decide to follow in their footsteps.
However, it is wise in that moment of “let’s do this!” to pause and reflect on how pursuing that goal fits into our bigger life plan. Does it help you to get to where you want to be in five-years-time? Or ten-years-time?
I recently quit my PhD because I was doing work that I didn’t enjoy towards a career in academia that I didn’t want. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a PhD or working towards one, but it just wasn’t for me any longer.
Mistake #2: only setting goals that are realistic
There’s a bit of controversy around this when you look up setting goals. Some people advocate only setting realistic goals (it’s sometimes the R in SMART goals after all), while some people recognise the power of “unrealistic” goals. I sit in the latter camp.
I’m not saying to shoot for things that are actually impossible. For example, it would probably be silly for me, as a 30-year-old, who currently walks and does yoga as exercise, to aim to get an Olympic medal in gymnastics. Then again, who knows what would happen if I put 100% effort in! (I’m not going to attempt this… see mistake #1!)
However, there is a lot of power in setting big, juicy, scary goals. Let’s take running for example (which I know slightly more about than gymnastics!). I could decide to run a 5K or a 10K next year. I’ve already run several of them and whether I accomplished it or not, it wouldn’t change my life all that much. So on the days when it’s rainy and cold, and I’m supposed to go for a run, it would be very easy to say to myself “why bother?”.
Now, instead if I set my sights on running my first marathon or ultra-marathon, that’s both scary and exciting. On the one hand, I’m not sure I can do it, because it requires quite a lot of training (and making time for the training), as well as perseverance to actually finish the race. On the other hand, it feels like it would be a really cool achievement to tick off my list and I would feel super proud of myself. So it both requires me to grow as a person, but also provides that boost of motivation because it’s such a big thing to attempt.
This works no matter your goals. When my blogging / business goal last year was to publish 52 blog posts, yes it was a challenge, but it didn’t feel as scary or life-changing as having a big income goal. So have a think: how can you make your goal something that scares and excites you enough to focus on actually getting there? Which brings me to my next point…
Mistake #3: setting too many goals
(Part of) the point of goals is to focus on achieving something, go all-in with the effort towards it and grow as a person in the process. Well, guess what: it’s hard to do that when you’re running after 14 goals at once. Trust me, I’ve been there. I started the year with 13 goals that ranged from stuff to do with my PhD, to blogging, to reading a certain amount of books, to cooking a new recipe every week… The list goes on! I then decided that 13 was bad luck so I made it 14 (this is when I’d insert a facepalm if I was using emojis!)
Well guess what? I definitely can’t remember what those 14 goals were at the time and I probably would not have been able to recollect what each one was at the time either! If you can’t remember what your goals are, you definitely have too many!
At some point in January (which proves you don’t have to start the year off perfectly!), I followed the goal-setting advice of Sam Laura Brown, one of the thought leaders I admire. She encourages people to set one “impossible goal” for the year. For me, that was making £50,000 in my business. And while I haven’t actually achieved that goal (yet!), I’ve defined the niche for my blog, I’ve set up systems in my business and I’ve started making sales. I have experienced a lot more growth in the pursuit of that one goal than if I was being pulled in 14 different directions!
Mistake #4: setting short-term results-based goals
If you read the paragraph above, you’ll know that I’m not against setting results-based goals. However, trying to force results quickly is probably going to lead to a) being scared by the imminent deadline and possibly doing nothing out of fear of failing, b) feeling frustrated at not reaching your target quickly.
What I recommend instead is to set a big results-based goal for the year and to break it down into increasing quarterly targets (e.g. make £5,000 in the first three months, then £10,000…). And then at a weekly and monthly level, to put the expectation of results to the side and focus on effort-based goals that would lead to the quarterly targets (e.g. launch an online course, pitch 10 guest posts…).
Rushing towards what we want isn’t generally sustainable and, to be honest, often feels crap. Again, I’ve been there and I still often go there. For example, right now, I feel in a rush to get to my income goal by the end of the year. But (I need to remind myself of this too), what works better than repeatedly asking ourselves “are we there yet?”, it’s better to focus on consistent effort and just let the results happen.
Mistake #5: not having a goal-setting system which encourages regular action towards your goals
I know I put this at number 5, but this is a major goal-setting mistake that I’ve seen happen all too often. People jump on the resolution train on the 31st of December and decide to “lose weight” or “get healthy”, or even to move forward in some way with their career. And then they do nothing. Or they put in a “perfect” effort for the first few days of January, then “fall off the bandwagon” and give up until next year.
Well, newsflash: there is no bandwagon! Also, this is quite stressful to witness, so please stop doing this people! Anyway, rant over. The main culprit here is the all-or-nothing mindset. I go into more detail about this in my free guide to three ways you might secretly be sabotaging your success, which you can get here!
But back to goal-setting: you can’t just set one big goal for the year, then hope for all the pieces to fall in place for you to achieve it… You need a system! Which brings me to…
The solution: my goal-setting system
After a lot of trial-and-error (having been guilty of the five mistakes above!) I came up with a goal-setting system that I love. I’ve made it available to you as digital download, that you can save on your phone/computer or print out. This goal-setting bundle includes how to create your five-year vision, yearly goal, quarterly targets, monthly and weekly goals.
That might seem like a lot, but I guide you through each step and they all flow into each other seamlessly. Now, I’m not saying that pursuing a big scary goal is going to be easy. But it does feel a damn lot more satisfying than floundering about, hoping and wishing that our dreams will come true, yet being frustrated at our lack of progress.
Anyhoo, grab your goal-setting bundle here and tell me what you think. I’m cheering for you!