Do You Make These 5 Deadly Mistakes When Setting Your Goals?

When done properly, setting goals is arguably one of the most powerful ways to take control of your life and achieve things that are meaningful to you. As goal-setting expert Brian Tracy notes, "People without goals are doomed to work forever for people who do have goals".

Do you have goals you want to achieve? I hope so! Let's discuss the goal setting mistakes in this article.

The true purpose of goals is to help us live a fulfilling life, but they can become a burden if they aren’t set wisely.

When this happens, goals can become a double-edged sword that causes the following:

  • Frustration due to continual failure to achieve our goals.
  • Suffocating social pressure upon sharing them with friends, relatives, or coworkers.
  • Feeling trapped as pride compels us to complete goals that no longer matter to us.

In this article, I will share the 5 Deadly Mistakes you should avoid when setting goals. I hope to assist you in reviewing your goals to ensure that they’re helping you and to make adjustments if you find that they aren’t.

Related article: 5 steps to take after you've set your goals.

Now for the 5 Deadly Mistakes of Goal Setting:

1. Lacking Flexibility

Is your current goal improving your present reality? Goals are designed to inspire and guide you. However, it’s entirely possible to become so rigid with our goals that we forget why we created them in the first place.

For example, you might decide to share your goals with your friends or family members in order to motivate yourself. You may even make a promise to someone that you will achieve a particular goal.

This is not necessarily a bad idea, but it can work against you if it leads to social pressure and pride becoming your main motivators.

Remember, goals are supposed to give you a sense of direction. They shouldn’t be set in stone. You don’t have to beat on your life that you’ll achieve every single goal you set. In fact, it’s probably best not to.

After all, a goal you set today could become totally irrelevant in just a few months’ time


When it comes to goal setting, it’s crucial to ask yourself the following question: Are my present goals improving my current reality? If the answer is no, you should probably drop them.

The bottom line is this: Goals are here to help you, so make sure yours are serving that purpose.

2. Lacking Clarity

Another common mistake is setting goals that lack clarity.

Things like...

  • making more money
  • being happy
  • losing weight
  • or becoming a better communicator...

... are not goals, they’re simply wishes. If you don’t now what you want exactly, you’re very unlikely to get it!

To illustrate the importance of clarity, lets do a quick, simple exercise from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made To Stick.

  • Take 15 seconds to list as many white things as you can. How many things could you think of?
  • Now take another 15 seconds to list as many white things in your refrigerator as you can. How many things could you think of?

This exercise illuminates the fact that specific goals allow you to tap into the focusing power of your mind. Vague goals can’t do this, which is why your mind is unable to help you achieve them.

3. Neglecting to Write Down Your Goals

According to Brian Tracy, "only 3% of adults have clear written measurable, time-bounded goals and plans to achieve them, and by every statistic, these 3% accomplish ten times as much as people with no goals at all."

The act of writing down your goals will instantly make them more concrete in your mind. It’s as if putting them on paper moves the things you daydream about from the abstract world and into the physical one.

Daydreaming about achieving the things you desire feels good in the moment, but it’s just an illusion. Once you take the time to get your aspirations on paper, however, they start to become part of your reality.

Do you have a list of goals? If not, why not create one today and find out for yourself if Brian Tracy is right.

4. Being Mentally Unprepared

How many times have you given up on your goals? If this is something that happens often, it might be that you aren’t mentally prepared to reach them.

Our Peak Performance Guided Meditation collection can help prepaire your mind for maximum productivity. Why not try it now?

We tend to be overly optimistic when setting goals. Optimism helps us to persevere and try new things, so it certainly has its benefits. Even so, it still has the potential to diminish our chances of achieving our goals.

Most of us think that getting the things we desire will be relatively easy, and this mindset renders us ill-equipped to contend with the challenges that may arise. More often than not, our unrealistic expectations cause us to give up prematurely.

If you want to significantly increase your ability to overcome obstacles, I recommend taking the following steps:

  • Double your time frame. The timeframe we use when setting our goals is usually completely unrealistic.
  • Expect the worst and multiply it by ten. Write down everything that could go wrong and how you plan to handle it. This will ready your mind to face and address challenges.
  • Answer the following questions: What would make me give up on my goals and under what circumstances is it okay for me to give up?

If you can prepare for the worst without sacrificing your optimism, you’ll be able to keep going when others can’t. The ability to persevere makes all the difference in the world when things get tough, doesn’t it?

5. Failing to Break Big Goals Down into Smaller Ones

Big goals are great and are often more exciting than small goals, but all goals are just a succession of small daily steps.** If you aren’t breaking your big goals into smaller, actionable ones, you’ll be unlikely to reach them.**

Make sure you chunk your goals down into daily habits. Identify the key skill(s) you need to master and the daily actions you must take to reach your goal, then turn them into at least 3 steps you can take each day.

The following is a great question to ask yourself on a daily basis: Will I achieve my goals if I continue to do what I’ve done today? Be brutally honest with yourself to ensure you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, you’ve got something to think about!

Are you committing any of these Deadly Mistakes? If so, I hope this article has encouraged you to review and adjust your goal-setting process.

Good luck on your goals!

Thibaut Meurisse is the founder of Obsessed with improvement, he dedicates his life to finding the best possible ways to durably transform both his life and the lives of others. Check out his free e-book "The 5 Commandments of Personal Development" or order his new book Goal Setting: The Ultimate Guide To Achieving Goals That Truly Excite You on Amazon now.