Clients often hire me to help them achieve specific goals they’ve set for themselves. Would it surprise you that 95% of the time (maybe more), my clients significantly change their goals (or throw them out altogether) within a few months of us working together?
You see, most of us set goals in a way that predestines us for certain failure. They end up being glorified New Year’s resolutions. And even worse: many are goals that don’t match up well with what we really want – leaving us feeling empty, disappointed, and wanting something more once they’re achieved.
My job is to ensure that my clients are going after the right goals for them, help them set them up for success, hold them accountable along the way, and support them when they most need it. Part of the equation is helping them determine whether they’ve made some common goal-setting mistakes. Mistakes I want to go over with you today.
Mistake #1: Setting Goals Based on What You Should Want (Instead of What You Really Want)
Do you set goals based on what you truly want or what you believe you should want (and others expect you should want)?
When I practiced law, I initially tried to build my book of business in an area of law that I didn’t love. Why? I had a lot of contacts in that area of law and my mentors persuaded me to go this route (they were well-intentioned, albeit wrong). Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out so well. I wasn’t motivated and, as a result, adopted some self-sabotaging behaviors that made it difficult to build my business.
Once I changed direction and started building my business in an area I enjoyed, things changed drastically for the better. So, even though I had very few contacts (and it seemed like it would be difficult for me as a result), I ended up building a solid book of business in an area that I loved and with clients I loved. And I had fun doing it.
Goals that are based on what you think you’re supposed to want or be doing are what I call outsider goals. And I want you to throw them out. Instead, set your goals based on what you actually want (purpose goals). You’ll be more motivated (and hence more likely) to achieve your purpose-driven goals. Plus, you’ll have more fun along the way.
Mistake #2: Setting Ego-Based Goals
An ego-based goal is one that’s meant to feed your ego. For example, making a certain amount of money because it will make you feel more powerful and important. Or wanting to lose weight so you can look hot in a swimsuit.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have goals that assist your ego. But I am suggesting that you re-think any ego-based goals and try to connect them with something that’s more meaningful than pure ego. I want you to re-frame them and connect them to your personal values and vision for what you want your life to look like and who you want to be.
So, if you want to make more money, what value is that connected to? It could be that you value feeling safe and secure – and that this goal is connected to that value. And maybe losing weight honors your value of health and vibrancy.
If you can’t re frame an ego-based goal, drop it. Because it’s not connected to anything you truly value. Plus, ego-based goals have some serious pitfalls. The accomplishment you feel when you achieve an ego-based goal is often fleeting. And you’ll be left with wanting something more. Even worse, ego-based goals have a way of getting mixed in with your happiness – as though your happiness is dependent on your success. So failing at an ego-based goal often results in feeling like a failure.
I don’t know about you, but any goal that makes me feel like a failure if I don’t achieve it, yet doesn’t provide complete satisfaction upon achieving it, isn’t worth my time or effort.
Mistake #3: Setting Goals that are Too Big
Sometimes goals are so big that they’re set up for failure from inception. When a goal is too big, you often can’t see yourself ever achieving the goal. Which means that you’re likely to lose heart and give up.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have lofty goals. But big goals have unique drawbacks that need some extra attention and planning. And sometimes it’s better to think of your big goals as a vision of where you’d one day like to be. One that you can work backwards from and set a few smaller goals that will get you closer to that vision.
This is a bit of a Jedi-mind trick – but it’s one that works. It allows you to set a few smaller goals that are more do-able, will get you closer to where you want to be, and will provide you with the momentum you need to get started and keep going.
Mistake #4: Failing to Review, Revisit, and Revise
Goals require intentional planning and purposeful action from start to finish. Most of us are pretty good at doing this at the outset, but not so good at reviewing progress and tweaking as we go.
I’m talking about regularly reviewing progress and comparing it to what was expected, adding new steps (or taking some away), re-setting deadlines, rethinking the path you’re taking, and even revising your desired outcome. This means that you’ve got to have some flexibility and a willingness to revise things as you go.
You’re not a static being – you’ll learn more about yourself and what you want along the way to achieving your goals. And goals don’t have to stay static either. So be sure you incorporate what you learn about yourself and what you want to achieve into your plan as you go.
Mistake #5: Getting in Your Own Way
Achieving goals requires proper prioritization, pushing through when the going gets tough, not giving up, saying “no” when necessary, having a willingness to admit when you’ve made a mistake or misstep, and understanding that the best way to learn is from “failure”.
Now, these may all seem like separate and distinct items that you must master. But you’re wrong. Because at the end of the day it’s all about one thing: your mindset.
Your mindset is the most important thing to achieving your goals (and happens to be the #1 thing I coach people on, although they don’t always realize it). If you don’t cultivate the right mindset and do whatever it takes to keep you in this mindset, then you’re likely to fail. Especially when it comes to your biggest and most important goals.
Time for Reflection and Implementation
Okay, so now what? You know the top mistakes that most people make when setting goals. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about how to set your goals the right way – for goals that will make you more likely to work hard (with ease and lots of energy), goals that you’ll love going after, and goals that are set up for success from the outset.
And we’ll also be getting into how to cultivate and set the right mindset, so you can get out of your own way.
But first, you need to review and reflect upon the goals you’ve already set for yourself – and ensure that you haven’t made any of the mistakes we’ve talked about today.
As a first step, review your theme for the year and ensure that you’re not making any of these mistakes when it comes to your theme (especially the first 2 discussed today). If you haven’t set a theme for the year, I highly encourage you to do so. A well-set theme will help you set better goals for yourself and help you to achieve them with more ease (don’t forget to use my set of 10 questions to help you set the right theme, which are available at the end of this article and will help you set your goals too).
Second, review any current goals that you have with a critical eye and identify whether you’ve been making any of the above mistakes. Especially ask yourself the following questions (which are questions I ask my clients and part of why they so often revise or throw out their goals):
- once you’ve achieved your goal, what will that do for you?
- how will you feel when you’ve achieved your goal (not just immediately upon achievement, but months or even years later)?
- after you achieve your goal, what’s next (will you want more of something similar or have new and different goals)?
Once you’ve gone through this process, I want to hear from you. Which common mistake are you most prone to making – and how are you going to work to ensure you don’t make it in the future? There is zero shame in admitting this out loud. Remember, these mistakes are COMMON (and most of us make them all at one time or another – including yours truly).
I’ll go first: I get caught up in huge goals from time to time. I have to remind myself constantly to start thinking of them as a bigger vision and break them down into smaller pieces. Otherwise, I get overwhelmed and stuck thinking I’ll never get there. In fact, every time I set a goal, I ask myself whether it’s something I can achieve within the year (or sooner) and how I can break it up into smaller steps.
Now it’s your turn.
Until next time…