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As a business coach I often help clients correct their goal setting mistakes.   What I’ve realised is that there are a number of common goal setting mistakes people make and some simple fixes, that can be put in place to avoid these mistakes .  If you can identify these goal setting mistakes upfront it will help you set better goals and ensure you make progress on actually achieving your goals every day.

People often experience mistakes with goal setting because they think that setting goals is all they need to do.   Goal setting mistakes happen when you have vague goals or too many goals.  We experience mistakes in goal setting when our goals are not measurable, when our goals don’t have a deadline attached to them and when we don’t have an action plan to follow to achieve our goals.

In this article I’m going to share what goal setting is, the importance of goal setting and the 11 most common goal setting mistakes I see as a business coach.  If you’re making any of these goal setting mistakes you can implement the strategies I’m about to share to help you overcome them.

If you want a proven process for setting goals, read my step by step process on goal setting.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the act of setting clearly defined goals and then working towards goal achievement every day.  Having clearly defined, measurable goals should be something you want to achieve in the future with a clear date to achieve the goals by.

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about and creating your ideal future.  To set a goal, think about something specific you want to achieve in the future.  Put a measurement to your goals, this must be a number or an event, and then set a deadline for achieving the goal in.

Why is goal setting important? 

Setting goals clarifies your long-term vision and provides short-term goals to focus on each day.  Having a proven goal setting process provides the framework to organise your time, energy and focus each day.  Having goals to work towards provides motivation and excitement that guide your daily actions.

Goal setting gives you a destination to work towards and daily direction.  The process of setting goals is important because it helps to clarify what’s truly important to you, and gives you a clear path and plan to pursue those goals.

In addition to improving your daily performance, people who set goals are more productive, more creative, have more confidence and are less stressed.

Effective goal setting gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in life and gives you a proven framework for taking action to achieve those goals in a focused, effective and decisive way.

The benefits of setting goals 

The benefits of setting goals are tangible and significant.   If you can successfully set and achieve your personal and business goals you will experience many benefits and improvements.  Setting goals provides direction, clarity and focus.

Goal setting triggers new behaviours, guides your daily actions and gives you a clear purpose in life.  Goals create a measurable road map to success.  Having goals helps you clarify what matters most in business and life.

Setting goals transforms how you invest your time, energy and focus and provides motivation to take action on achieving your goals.

Read more about the benefits of goal setting.

11 goal setting mistakes and how to fix them

Here are the most common goal setting mistakes with tips on how to overcome them.

1. Setting unrealistic goals 

The most common goal setting mistake I see people make is setting unrealistic goals,  The consequences of setting unrealistic goals are significant and can put you off setting goals forever.

When you set unrealistic goals, and fail to achieve them, it can affect your confidence, self-esteem and motivation.  Not reaching your goals can make you feel frustrated, guilty, disappointed and frustrated.

If you want to achieve your goals, start by building up your goal achievement muscle.  Start small and set a goal you can actually achieve.  Achieving goals, however small, builds motivation and momentum.

Once you achieve that first goal, you can start setting bigger and better goals.  Read more about how to achieve your goals.

2. Having too many goals 

The second most common goal setting mistake I see people make is having too many goals.  Having too many goals can make you feel scattered and unfocused.  When you have too many goals it’s difficult to decide on your most important goal and know which goal to focus on first.

Having too many goals can lead to failing to achieve your goals.  This failure leads to guilt, frustration and disappointment.

To overcome this goal setting mistake, choose a small number of goals to focus on achieving within a specific time period.  By recognising that you have to prioritise your goals, you can identify which goals are the most important to you right now.

Read more on how to set SMART goals.

3. Not writing down your goals 

A common goal setting problem is a failure to write down your goals. You are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. Writing your goals down not only forces you to clarify exactly what you want to accomplish, but the process of writing down your goals plays a crucial role in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for goal achievement.

When you take the time to vividly describe your goals in written form there is a powerful connection with your brain about how important your goals are.  Your brain starts looking for ways to help you move forward on achieving your goals.

When you set your next goal, take the time to write down your goals.  Read more on writing down your goals.

4. Not setting measurable goals 

The most critical goal setting mistake I see people make is not setting measurable goals.  When you have vague goals you have no clear destination and nothing to review your goal progress against.

Measurable goals should be a number or an event.  When you set measurable goals you have clarity on whether you have achieved your goals or you haven’t.  Having measurable goals allows you to track your progress against a specific result.  Making progress on your measurable goals builds motivation and momentum,

If you only have vague goals it’s difficult to see any tangible progress.  Measurable goals help you prioritise your time, energy and focus towards achieving a measurable result that is important to you.  Read more on setting measurable goals.

5. Not having a deadline for your goals

The second most critical goal setting mistake I see people make is not setting a deadline for their goals.

If you want to achieve your goals you must be intellectually and emotionally engaged with the outcome you want to achieve.  A key component of this goal engagement is setting a deadline for your goal.

Without a deadline, your goals have no destination or direction.  A goal without a deadline lacks purpose, motivation or commitment to achieving the goal.

If you want to achieve your goals, set a clear deadline for reaching them.  Read more about setting short-term goals.

6. Not being intentional about your goals

If you struggle with goal setting it might be because you haven’t set intentional goals.  I see this goal setting mistake all the time.

People set goals but there is not intention behind their goals.

Setting intentional goals helps you clarify exactly what goals you want to achieve and why you want to achieve those specific goals.  Being intentional about your goals clarifies your purpose and helps you understand the difference achieving goals will make in your life.

When there is intention behind your goals your motivation and energy is sky high and your focus on goal achievement amplifies.

Read more about being intentional.

7. Not setting exciting goals 

A common goal setting mistake people make is not setting exciting goals.  If you want to achieve your goals, the goals must be exciting and motivating.

When you goals are uninspiring it becomes difficult to take action.  If your goals are exciting you will want to take action and make progress every day,

Exciting goals are motivating and inspiring.  If your vision of achieving a specific goal in the future isn’t exciting and motivating, pick another goal.

8. Not knowing the benefit of achieving your goals

A typical goal setting mistake I see people make all the time is not understanding the benefit or result of achieving their goals.  They haven’t taken the time to picture themselves in the future having achieved their goal, or seen the benefit achieving their goal will make in their life.

Effective goal setting starts with seeing yourself in the future having achieved your goal.  If the benefit of achieving your goal isn’t motivating or exciting enough you won’t take the daily actions needed to achieve your goals.

Goal achievement takes time and work.  If the benefit of achieving the goal isn’t big enough you won’t take action and you may even give up on your goals.

9. Not breaking down your goals

Setting goals is the first step towards goal achievement.  One of the goal setting mistakes I often see is people failing to lay out the action steps needed to achieve their goals.

There is no plan and path to follow to provide daily direction. The first step is to set your goals.  Then start breaking your goals down into actionable steps you can take daily and weekly to achieve your goals.

It becomes easier to work on your goal if you know exactly what to do.  What first step to take.  Breaking down your goals and scheduling in the action steps needed provides focus and direction which builds confidence and motivation.

10. Not reviewing progress on your goals

A critical goal setting mistake is not setting your goals in such as way that you can track progress.  Tracking progress on your goals is crucial to goal achievement as it provides extra encouragement and motivation.

When you set goals that are measurable and have a deadline, you have a framework to measure your progress daily, weekly and monthly.

When you measure progress on your goals ensure you measure backwards from where you started so you can see the incremental gains you make.  These gains build confidence and momentum

11. Not identifying the obstacles to goal achievement 

One of the most powerful ways to achieve your goals is to identify the obstacles that stand in the way of your goal achievement.  Yet, few people use this process when setting goals.

When you set goals there will always be obstacles to overcome to achieve your goals.  Identifying, and overcoming those obstacles, will speed up your goal achievement.

When you next set a goal take the time to identify all the obstacles that stand in your way.  Identify the biggest obstacles and then develop a strategy and action plan to overcome each of the individual obstacles.


There are many goal setting mistakes people make that stands in the way of their goal achievement.  In this article I’be highlighted the most common goal setting mistakes I see people make as their business coach.

If you’re currently making any of these goal setting mistakes, use the tips to overcome them and move closer to your own goal achievement.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What’s the one thing that stops you from achieving your goals?

Can you identify with any of these goal setting mistakes?

Let me know in the comments.

About Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is the Founder of Lucemi Consulting and a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results.

Get more goal setting articles, tips and tools to help you simplify your time to multiply your results on the blog.

Sign up to my Time For What Matters newsletter to get more proven goal achievement tips and strategies.

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