17 mistakes you make when chasing your goals
So you’ve set your goals and your new year resolutions. You’ve lined up 10 items that will definitely be checked off at the end of the month. You’ve got this.
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You are not breaking down your goals
When your goals are too large, you feel overwhelmed. This is due to the multitude of decisions and choices you have to make.
For the longest time, I had “save more money” on my to do list. Each time I saw it, my brain somehow just skips over it. And guess what? It never got accomplished! It was pushed from one to do list to the next. I had reached the end of the year and still had no idea what did saving money even looked like!
What I could have done instead was break the large goal down. For instance, saving money could involve:
- Less trips to Starbucks for morning coffee.
- Packing more lunches to work instead of eating out.
- Canceling all unnecessary paid memberships (ie: gym).
Brainstorming the mini tasks you need to accomplish to get to your big ticket item makes the process clearer. You know exactly what are the few things you need to focus on to achieve your goal.
Quick Tip: Look at your list of big goals and brainstorm the mini steps you need to achieve them.
Your goals are too vague
Goals need to be specific. Compare these two sentences:
- “Do my best to save money”
- “Save $10,000 for my trip to Europe”
Which one motivates you? Makes you more driven to accomplish it?
Vague, ambiguous, “fluffy” goal statements don’t work at all. It gives you no direction and you’d have no clue if the things you are doing are directly contributing to your success.
Quick Tip: Go through your goal statements and make them more specific. If you look at them thinking “I have no idea what this actually means or what this actually looks like” then it’s likely to be vague.
You don’t measure your goals
Compare this: “Save more money for European trip!” vs “Save $200 each week for 16 weeks for European trip”.
Or this: “Write report today” vs “Write 1200 words in 1 hour”.
Which statements actually feel achievable?
When we don’t measure our goals, we have no way of assessing if we are making good progress or not. We have no way of knowing how much extra work we need to put in to get to our final destination.
Measurement can take on any form. As long as you are quantifying your goal in some way, you are good.
Quick Tip: Quantify your goals. Add a unit of measurement to your goal statements. It could be page numbers, word count, amount of money, or time, distance travelled and so on.
Your goals are too challenging and almost out of reach
According to goal-setting theorists Locke and Latham, challenging goals lead to a higher level of performance. We all derive a huge sense of satisfaction from accomplishing something significant.
But, goals still have to be achievable. If they are too challenging, we would give up quickly.
Eg: “Study 14 chapters of physics in a day”, “Finish reading an entire book in 4 hours.” Those aren’t realistic or achievable. You end up stressing yourself out and giving up before you’ve even began!
Quick tip: Are your goals achievable? If they aren’t, re-write them until it feels realistic. You can always increase the challenge of the goal when you get a better hang of things.
It’s not something that you really want
The purpose or the WHY needs to be something that comes from within.
It’s got to be something you genuinely want, and wouldn’t mind putting in the hard work for.
Ask yourself, is this what I really want? Or is this what society, my parents, my teachers, my friends (Insert external source) tell me it’s what I should want? This can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
When you figure out your answer. Write it down and tape it somewhere, have it on your phone. Whenever you are wondering what the hell am I doing this for? – That will serve as a reminder.
Quick Tip: For each goal you set, spend some time asking yourself WHY you really want to accomplish it. What and who are you doing for? Do some soul searching! And don’t be surprised if you actually strike off some goals from your list when you realise they don’t serve your higher purpose.
You lack the motivation and willpower
Guess what? Willpower is over-rated. It’s like a battery that depletes over the course of the day. It’s even lower when you are sick or tired. Your lack of motivation or willpower could also be due to other factors – lack of direction, vague goals etc.
But don’t worry, there are ways around this. You could have plans or structures in place, an accountability partner or even quotes to inspire you. Whatever works.
I stick little quotes all over my laptop screen. Whenever I feel a sense of dread creeping up as I’m about to embark on something, this quote always inspires me:
This is simple. This is easy. This is fun – Kerwin Rae
I then take a deep breath and just dive into it. Always works!
Quick Tip: Motivate yourself in little ways – quotes, accountability partner etc.
You don’t have confidence
Or you let self-doubt, negative beliefs and your inner critic get in the way.
Have you ever told yourself any of these: “I’m not good enough”, “I will never make it”, “I will never be as good as the rest anyway, so why try?” and any related negative gunk?
We’ve all got negative tapes playing in our heads for years. This negativity has built up so much of momentum that it becomes the default pattern of thought.
Our beliefs all have some element of perception bias, which works like this: Think a thought >> Experience something that confirms your initial belief/thought >>> Belief/thought is reinforced.
Do that frequently over a period of time and you can see how difficult it can be to break out of our beliefs.
But, one way around this is to always remind yourself that there are a million different sides to something you’ve observed. Not everything that you believe or think is true.
Another method that works wonders is positive affirmations, or, taking your negative statements and turning them into positive ones.
Quick Tip: Every time you start putting yourself down with negative statements, take note! And try turning that statement into something positive.
You don’t have a plan
You probably didn’t even write it down! Everything stays in your head.
When you don’t have a plan – nothing gets done. you do things whenever you feel like it. Whenever our emotions get in the way, especially when we’re trying to get things done, procrastination creeps in.
You don’t measure your progress effectively, you under or over-estimate the time needed to finish tasks.
Quick Tip: Get your goals out of your head and onto a notepad or Word. Go one step further and develop a plan for your goal.
You lack focus and are constantly distracted
The environment that you are in and what is in your environment, matters a lot.
We’ve all been guilty of opening 20 tabs on our web browsers, surfing Facebook or checking Instagram when we are supposed to be working.
Handphones are a huge culprit. Keep it away so you don’t have to keep fighting the urge to check your notifications!
Another source of distraction is the activity level or noise level in your environment. Some of us work very well in slightly busy places (ie: coffee shop), as it forces us to concentrate. Others need library-levels of silence. Figure out what works best for you and always ensure that your environment is conducive.
Quick Tip: Create a physical, distraction-free space (not your bed!) that is an area where you ‘enter’ to get stuff done. This could be a desk space, a coffee shop you like or somewhere you feel you are most productive.
You lack accountability
When you are accountable to someone about what you said you would do, you are more likely to deliver.
Just the thought that someone is expecting something from you is enough to keep you motivated. Telling someone about it puts it out in the public sphere and you feel like you can’t go back on your word.
That is a big enough push to get you off your ass – nobody likes to feel embarrassed or look like they can’t keep their word!
Quick Tip: Get somebody willing to be your accountability partner.
You don’t have a deadline for it
“I’ll finish this blog post in the next 30 mins” vs “I will finish it whenever I can.”
Guess which gets done?
When there isn’t a deadline, it doesn’t register as “urgent” to our minds and we end up taking our own sweet time. you will find that things just drag on and on and never gets done. Remember,
Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. – Gretchen Rubin
Quick Tip: Assign deadlines to your large-ticket items as well as your mini goals.
You give up too easily
You run into a small roadblock and you think, well this is too difficult, I won’t bother anymore. But, nobody said the road to our desination would always be smooth!
Comparing your personal journey to others doesn’t help too. When you compare yourself to someone else who is further along in the journey, and feel you don’t match up, it seems easier to just give up.
Whenever you feel like giving up, or feel the journey is too long, remind yourself that – a small step is still a step. As long as you are chipping away bit by bit, you will get there eventually 🙂
Quick Tip: Find a little bit of inspiration – this could be in the form of quotes, positive affirmations etc that you stick somewhere. Refer to this often, and especially whenever you feel the urge to give up. Sometimes, taking a break and coming back to the task awhile later helps.
You make too many excuses
“I don’t have enough time.”, I need to clean my room first before I write this” “It will take too long”. I am super guilty of this as well.
Anytime I find myself starting to find excuses before I need to get some important work done – I stop myself and repeat the quote I mentioned earlier: “This is simple. This is easy. This is fun.”
It diverts my attention away from getting too deep into my usual boatload of excuses. It quickly reshifts my focus to the task at hand.
Quick Tip: Whenever you find yourself making excuses, it is helpful to ask yourself – is this task too big? Am i overestimating the amount of time i need? Address the underlying cause of what is making you put it off.
You set too many goals at the same time
This will overwhelm and paralyse you. I’m extremely guilty of this. I still pack 20 things on my to-do list, and end up not touching a single thing.
If you find yourself doing this often – ask yourself if your to-do list is achievable and realistic. Are you being realistic about the time you are spending on each task?
It’s better to focus on one task at a time. Get it done and checked off before thinking about the next one.
Quick Tip: Trim your to do list so that you focus only on 1-3 items per day.
You don’t prioritise right
Unable to decide which task to do first? You’re not alone. I constantly struggle with this and end up doing things unrelated to my huge goal. Then I end the day frustrated.
According to Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix, we should be spending time on tasks that are important, not just urgent. Important tasks are tasks that contribute to your personal development, long-term goals and values.
For eg, this is a to-do list for a newbie blogger looking to monetise their site:
- Install seo plugin.
- Listen to twitter podcasts
- Design pinterest pins
- Sign up for affiliate marketing networks
See how the items are haphazard and don’t really have much to do with the main aim of monetising?
Quick Tip: Go through your to-do list and ask yourself why you want to do this. You’ll be able to quickly determine if the task is important or merely urgent.
You write your goals in negative language
I firmly think that the tone in which we write our goal statements influences the way we think about them.
When I write my statements negatively, Ie: “Don’t put on weight” or “lose weight”. vs something more positive: Ie: I want to eat healthily and exercise more this year”).
See how each statement inspires different feelings in you? The second feels more uplifting and inspiring. The former feels sorta harsh.
Quick Tip: Take a look at your goal statements/new year resolutions. Do you have use sterner or more negative language? Words like “should” “have to”, “need”, “don’t/don’t want” all fall in this category. Rewrite them into something more positive and inspiring.
You don’t review your goals
Reviewing our goals is an extremely important step in the goal setting process. As I mentioned in a previous post, it gives you the opportunity to recalibrate expectations, measure progress, adjust goal difficulties and celebrate your successes.
It also gives you a chance to take note of your accomplishments – which we forget to sometimes.
We focus a lot on what we haven’t done and do not take the time to take note of and celebrate what we have done.
Quick Tip: Constantly check in with your monthly, weekly and daily goals. Ensure they are on the right track and if they aren’t, adjust your upcoming schedule. Take the time to celebrate your wins!
Which mistakes are stopping you from achieving your goals?
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Need more goal setting tips? Check out my other goal setting posts:
- Why you should make time for self-reflection
- Why you need to set goals
- How to set effective goals and slay them
- How to conduct effective weekly reviews
With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice.