How to Achieve your Goals: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid.

So last week I shared why goals are important and what you can do to increase your chances of achieving your goals. (You can catch that BLOG episode here) I also promised some insights into how to set goals that guarantees you’ll achieve them and wipes out fear of failure….. so read on……

Goal setting is so popular this time of year. We’re all having a bash at setting and achieving new years resolutions. But we all make mistakes when we set goals, here’s my round up of the top goal setting mistakes made by well meaning folks like us and what to do to instead!

#1 – Setting goals we don’t really want to achieve

Losing weight, drinking less, working fewer hours, doing more mindfulness, getting better sleep. They all sound like goals we all want to achieve, I mean, when I read this list I can easily sign up to a few of them. BUT, these are often surface level goals.

What lies beneath? 

For example: Drinking less. 

You set yourself this goal because you think you’re drinking too much over the week. After a long day at work, perhaps having put the kids to bed, you go the fridge and the wine or beer is gently calling your name. Before you know it you’re drinking 3 glasses a night and it’s become a bad habit. 

I support you. This is a great goal to set your sights on achieving. 

However. What lies beneath? Probably stress, lack of ‘me time’, needing to unwind.

Is drinking less going to address the core problem.


And so a few weeks into your goal after a particularly stressful day, you think ‘sod it’ and open a bottle. You feel like a failure and pour yourself an extra glass for that too. 

What do you do to avoid this mistake? Set the goals you care about that address the root cause of the problem and you’re already winning. 

#2 – Not knowing WHY your goal is important

This is a build on the first one. Once you know the root cause of your problem, you also need to know why it’s important to you if you’re going to achieve it 

Let’s follow the example of drinking less. Why is it important to you to drink less?

Maybe it’s your health, your body shape and weight or your mood. Perhaps it’s because you grew up around heavy drinkers and you don’t want to become like them. Or, maybe it’s got something to do with wanting to be a role model to your children.

Whatever your reason, its needs to be compelling because when you feel like giving in, it’s this which is going to keep you moving forward and enable you to achieve your goal.

#3 – Not being SMART

I’m guessing many of us have heard of SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound). Well many of us aren’t smart when it comes to goal setting. 

Goals do need a little finesse for them to be effective and for you to achieve them. You don’t need a rigid structure that sucks the creativity out of the process of setting goals BUT, do have these little markers in the back of your mind ……: 

  • Be clear about what you want – SPECIFICS
  • Know when you will have achieved it – what’s your evidence going to be? MEASURABLE
  • It has to be achievable, or else what’s the point. Don’t make it too easy, but also don’t be too far fetched. ACHIEVEABLE and REALISTIC
  • Most importantly, be bold and give your goal a date. If it doesn’t have a date, it’s not a goal, it’s just a wish or a desire. TIMEBOUND

#4 – Setting goals for things you are not in control of

I see this all the time

“I’m going to get promoted”

GREAT GOAL, it seems. But you’re not in control of it. You can’t guarantee that you will achieve it

Can you directly control the outcome of your goals?

Unless you are the decision maker about your promotion, this is not a goal that is well formed.

You can ask for a promotion.

Perhaps you can apply for a promotion.

You might even be able to put in several job applications for jobs which are a step up for you.

But you cannot control the getting of a promotion, because this is someone else’s decision. 

So when it comes to setting goals you can achieve be absolutely certain that you can control the outcome and if you can’t then set a different goal.

When you can control the outcome you are guaranteed to achieve it, so this one is particularly important if you are side tracked by a fear of failure. 

Here’s a real example from me.

Last month I launched my signature coaching program SWITCH UP YOUR CAREER.

I launched it through some masterclasses I ran.

Someone suggested I set a goal of gaining 500 sign ups, but I knew I wasn’t in control of that. I could influence it, I could do everything within my power to achieve it, but I could not physically do it myself.

Instead I set a series of goals that I could control that would in most likelihood take me to a certain number of sign ups (The number I had in mind was 100).

These goals involved a social media plan of a certain number of posts per day, reaching out to friends, colleagues and other supporters and asking for their help in raising awareness, and many more. I could do every single one of these steps. And you know what – I got the 100 sign ups I was aiming for.  

So be focused on what you can control. 

# 5 – Focusing on the things you don’t want

Lose Weight

Drink Less

Work fewer hours

Stop going to bed late

What’s wrong with these topics as goals? 

They all focus on the one thing you’re trying to change. 

Lose weight – puts your focus on the weight

Drink less- makes you thnk of drinking

Work fewer hours – maintains your focus on work

Stop going to bed late – makes you think about going to bed late

The human brain can’t process a negative. 

When you think about drinking less, you have to think of drinking in order to be able to consider having less of it.

When you write a goal that is focused on the thing you are trying to stop, or your goal is written in a negative then it’s going to make it almost impossible to achieve. It keeps you focused on what you don’t want, as oppose to what you DO want. 

So what do you do instead?

Here’s some examples of goals that are putting the focus on what you DO want (and pt 4, what you are in control of)

  1. Follow and create healthy, balanced meal plans every day of the week 
  2. Drink only water after 8pm Monday to Friday 
  3. Say no to non business critical demands beyond 6pm. 
  4. Go to bed by 10pm 5 nights per week. 

What do you notice about these goals? 

Personally I feel they have a lighter tone to them, they are much more achievable! 

So there you have it my top 5 mistakes we all make when setting goals.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas of what you can do differently this year to set yourself goals you want and will achieve. Tune in next week for the final part of the goal series where I talk through some top tips for a creative goal setting session! 

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