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3 Common Goal Setting Mistakes

3 Common Goal Setting Mistakes


    Setting and achieving goals is one of the best surefire ways to improve the quality of our lives. We commonly use goals to improve our health, relationships, financial situation, career or business success, and even happiness. Sometimes goals are set for us, as in a work situation, but most of the time we determine our own goals.

    SEE ALSO: How the Act of Daily Goal Setting Makes You Successful

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    Successfully achieving those goals is not only key to advancing our careers, but also to help us to grow as individuals. Unfortunately, when choosing our goals, we often unknowingly sabotage our success, by committing these three very common goal setting mistakes.

    Thinking Too Narrowly

    One of the biggest benefits of creating goals is that they force us to focus our time, attention, and energy on a specific objective, instead of scattering our focus and our resources among the broad range of possibilities vying for our attention. When we concentrate our efforts on a specific target, we’re more likely to accomplish our goals and less time.

    That said, setting a goal that is too specific, while achievable, can lead to a goal setting mistake, by missing the true intention of our goal in the first place. We fall into this common trap by thinking too narrowly, and missing the bigger picture of what we’re really hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, this often leads, to wasted effort and frustration.

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    Setting a goal to lose 20 pounds for example, might be very valuable to a person who is otherwise healthy, but just carries a little bit of extra weight. For others, losing 20 pounds, while appealing, is misdirected effort, when the real goal is to achieve better health. When you look at the bigger picture, losing weight might not be the most effective goal. Perhaps quitting smoking would be more valuable. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure or reversing heart disease might be better served by changes in diet or increased activity. Though losing weight might be a byproduct, it isn’t actually the true goal.

    Another example of a too specific goal might be to increase the number of sales calls or project numbers, when the real goal is to advance our career, and a more valuable goal might be to attain an advanced certification or further our education to make us more valuable to an employer. Still another to specific goal might be to find the perfect mate, when the real goal is to be happier. Even if we find the perfect mate, we won’t necessarily be happier, because we have missed the true underlying need.

    Quantity VS. Quality

    In our zealousness for accomplishment, we unwittingly sabotage our forward movement by setting quantity goals rather than quality goals. Quantity goals may simply mean that we have set too many goals at one time rather than focusing our attention on a single, or a select few quality goals. But perhaps more important, is the distinction between a quality goal and a quantity goal.

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    Quantity goals usually deal with numbers while quality goals generally deal with an improvement in our overall quality of life and work. Unfortunately, quantity goals are easier and faster to achieve so they tend to draw our interest, but often quality goals have more impact on making important changes that address our most crucial needs.

    When setting goals, focus on quality rather than quantity to avoid goal setting mistakes. Also, notice if you tend to automatically gravitate to “numbers” goals. Quantity, “numbers” goals are not inherently bad, and can be very useful as long as they are also quality goals that address the bigger picture.

    Unrealistic expectations

    We see this common mistake time and time again. If we set a goal of finding a new job or getting a promotion but only give ourselves one month to do so, we’re just setting ourselves up for failure. Writing your first book generally takes more than six weeks, six months is a more realistic goal. Also, be sure your goals are within your control.

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    Being offered a new job, might not be within your control, but revising your resume, hiring a career coach, or sending out resumes and checking job postings every week is within your control. Finding an agent or publisher in a specific timeframe probably isn’t within your control, but completing a book proposal, and contacting potential agents is within your control.

    keep these common pitfalls in mind When determining goals. Set goals that impact the bigger picture and address your true objectives. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking too narrowly and concentrate on quality over quantity. Make sure your goals are realistic, within your control and have a reasonable timeframe. While you’re at it, take a look at past goals that you weren’t able to achieve, see if you can revise them, and try again.

    (Photo credit: Golf Bunker via Shutterstock)

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    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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    Last Updated on November 11, 2020

    The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

    The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

    This is the seventh and final article describing The New Lifehacking. In this series, I described the need for you, a Lifehacker, to focus on making fundamental changes to your habitual methods, rather than chasing the latest gadget or tip. The best way to accomplish this change is to gain an understanding of your current systematic methods, and to use this knowledge to set new targets.

    However, using this approach by itself, as logical as it sounds, could close the door to future improvements.

    If you only focus on your own methods and keep your head down, you could miss opportunities to improve. The fact is, inspiration to change often arises from the stories, examples and insights of other people, and in order to keep things fresh, you need to be open to these new, possibly contrarian, concepts.

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    How Do You Look for New Ideas and Gadgets?

    If you are a new Lifehacker, you search cautiously. There are new books, blog posts, lists and gadgets coming out all the time, and there’s no way to cover every possible improvement–you simply can’t keep up. You can trust, however, that there are others on the Internet who will curate these concepts for you and continuously share them until they start to resonate.

    After an idea or shortcut gets mentioned a few times in an intelligent way by people that you respect, it’s probably time to pay attention and add the new resource to a list of items to research. This is one way to crowdsource the job of sifting through new ideas in a way that saves you a lot of time and effort.

    How Do You Evaluate New Ideas and Gadgets?

    While you need to be open to new suggestions for possible improvement, you need to adopt an entirely different process in order to evaluate them. A healthy dose of skepticism is required if you are to escape the trap of grabbing the latest-greatest-hottest “thingy,” only to see it fail. The fact is, a particular improvement may help one person and at the same time hinder others. You need to look at your current habits and practices, plus your own evaluation and ask yourself if the investment in time, energy and focus is worth the payoff at the end.

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    For example, I had to make some cost/benefit decisions when I considered switching over from a Palm T PDA to a Blackberry a few years ago. I tried my best to make the change slowly, aware that some of my habits needed to change in order to accommodate the new device.

    Here are a few that I had to alter:

    New Habit #1.

    Recharging the device became a nightly requirement, versus a bi-weekly option. This meant plugging in the device each night. Therefore, I always needed to be near a charger and a power source.

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    New Habit #2.

    I switched from carrying around a paper pad to capture new tasks, to typing them into my Blackberry with its small keyboard. This meant I had less to take with me from place to place, but it also meant that ideas took longer to record. Also, when I’m on a call and need to record an appointment or phone number, the process of switching over from one function to another is fraught with danger. I still drop the occasional call.

    New Habit #3.

    Replacing a feature phone with a smartphone means switching from an inexpensive, robust device to one that’s expensive and more fragile. This requires me to be more careful, learning how to protect against theft, physical and adverse physical elements. I had to learn to treat my phone as if it were a precious device that simply couldn’t be just left anywhere.

    New Habit #4.

    As a Palm user, I was never tempted to use the device while driving. Today’s smartphone user is afflicted with the temptation to break state laws and commonsense rules of thumb by attempting to multitask in moving vehicles. Fortunately, I never developed this particular habit but that’s only because I try hard to be vigilant against all forms of distractions, especially when I’m driving. It takes mental effort to be that vigilant; it’s an entirely new habit.

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    How Do You Implement New Ideas and Gadgets?

    Once the decision has been made to adopt a new improvement, it’s important to make the switch consciously, with a high degree of awareness. There are likely to be a few surprises that require extra attention, and some new habits that turn out to be harder to learn than you thought. For example, I had a hard time learning to plug in my smartphone each night.

    The point is maintain as many old, productive habits as possible while implementing the handful of new ones that you believe will make a difference. Unfortunately, it’s devilishly easy to make things worse, and even *much* worse. People who jump from one technology to another can attest to this fact–witness those who fail to switch to large screen smartphones that don’t comfortably fit in a holster. The size of the device forces them to abandon a trusted old habit, in search of a new one. Some simply switch back to their old devices because the “improvement” makes things worse for them.

    The New Lifehacking is all about executing intelligent, individual change management. This transformation might not happen at a pace that the author of a book or an inventor of a gadget might want, but at the end of the day we, the new lifehackers, answer only to ourselves, deciding whether or not an improvement makes the deep difference that we want.

    Featured photo credit: Emily Park via unsplash.com

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