6 Goal Setting Traps You Must Avoid

By Lachlan Haynes

Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced. By avoiding the goal setting traps you can set goals with confidence and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do. So let's take a look at some of the biggest traps that need to be avoided.

1. You've set goals that don't motivate you. When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you (yes, you!) This means making sure that they are important to you, and that you feel there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture you have created for yourself, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Why? Because goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an "I must do this" attitude. When you don't have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. So do your goals actually motivate you?

2. Your goals don't work for you. Does your adherence to your goals find you feeling confused about the next steps to take? If your goals are not concise, attainable, practical, and/or quantifiable, they are not smart goals - thus making their execution frustrating and much harder on you than necessary. Are your goals simply outlined, and able to be completed on a realistic timeline?

Set specific goals. Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don't provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way.

Set measurable goals. Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as "be healthier" how will you know when you have been successful? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.

Set achievable goals. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn't have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to "raise the bar" and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.

Set relevant goals. Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you'll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you'll fritter your time - and your life - away.

Set time-based goals. You goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

3. Your goals live only in your head. When you can see your goals laid out in front of you, they have a real, actual presence that brings them into your life. Write them out, and keep them somewhere in which you are forced to see and acknowledge them every day. Rather than using language like, "I'd like to", or "I hope to", create more certainty by beginning sentences with language such as, "I will". This lends legitimacy to your goals, which will soon be apparent in your actions. When you use flimsy language, you give yourself a built-in excuse to procrastinate or take longer than necessary to achieve your goals.

4. You didn't make an action plan. This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you'll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term.

5. You're using all-or-nothing goals. Being specific and measurable is important, but goals such as "finish a marathon" or "lose 50 pounds" can set up a pass/fail mindset and failure can lead to a negative spiral. If you do set audacious, long-term goals, make sure to recognize that you may experience setbacks. If you lose 47 pounds instead of 50 have you failed? Or have you succeeded?

6. You gave up too quickly! Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals (even 5 or 10 minutes a week will do!) Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

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