I write a lot about goal setting—what to do, how to do it, and when. You know I love the process of goal setting and believe that a good process can help you stay focused, increase your motivation, and track your progress.  

What I don’t seem to talk about, is the common mistakes that we make when goal setting.  Mistakes that then make achieving your goals difficult.  Today, I thought I’d do just that.  

Here are 10 common mistakes when setting goals and how to avoid them.     

1. Setting too many goals

One common mistake is setting too many goals at once. When you spread your focus too thin, it becomes challenging to allocate the necessary time and energy to each goal. This can lead to overwhelming feelings and reduced productivity. You will find that it takes longer to achieve your goals because you have too many to focus on, which can be frustrating and demotivating.  

I recommend that you focus on just a couple of goals at a time and revisit each quarter so you can adjust as necessary. 

2. Choosing Goals that are not meaningful to you

Goals should resonate with your values and long-term objectives. If a goal doesn’t hold personal significance, the motivation to reach it will likely dwindle over time. In fact, without even knowing it you will sabotage those goals that are not important to you. 

Your goals can benefit others and yourself. However, make sure each goal is something you are passionate about and contributes to your broader life plans. This personal connection is what will keep you driven during challenging times.

3. Setting unreasonable timelines

Every goal needs a realistic timeline. Too often, goals are set with deadlines that are either too soon, too vague, or unrealistic because of the time you have to allocate to them. Unrealistic timelines can lead to frustration and a sense of failure, which might deter you from pursuing further objectives.

It’s vital to assess what can realistically be achieved within a given timeframe and set milestones that are challenging yet attainable.  I recommend you consider what else you have going on when setting your timelines.  For example, do you have a vacation planned, a conference, or managing children over the summer break?  All of this can impact your timelines. 

4. Setting Goals That Are Not Realistic

Ambition is crucial, but realism is key. Goals that are overly ambitious may set you up for failure. It’s important to evaluate your resources, constraints, and personal capacity when setting goals. They should stretch your abilities but remain achievable with effort. Remember, reaching a goal should be tough, but not impossible.

5. Expecting Things to Go Smoothly

Expecting your path toward any goal to be obstacle-free is unrealistic. Challenges and setbacks are part of any journey. Do what you can to anticipate potential problems, and prepare contingency plans. However, it is important to accept that stuff happens and keep moving forward despite the obstacles. 

This is one reason I love quarterly planning.  Reviewing your goals, reassessing and regrouping is one way to adjust after obstacles and setbacks so you can keep moving forward.  Ensuring you have support like a mastermind group is another way you can manage these challenges. 

6. Failing to Measure Your Progress

Without tracking progress, it’s easy to lose sight of where you stand in relation to your goals. Regularly measuring progress not only provides motivation but also offers an opportunity for reflection and course correction. It can help you understand what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can adjust your strategies moving forward.

I like to map out the things or milestones I need to hit to accomplish my goals weekly.  This way, I quickly know when I start to fall behind and what I need to do to get caught up.  Quarterly planning is another great way of checking in and measuring your progress.  With the quarterly planning process, you can quickly assess if you have to readjust your expectations or how you might rally and get caught up. 

7. Neglecting Incremental Goals

Large goals can often seem daunting and far away.  By breaking a big goal into smaller, incremental goals, you make it more manageable and less intimidating. These smaller goals serve as stepping stones towards your larger objective and provide frequent opportunities for celebration, which can boost morale and motivation.

One way I do this is by looking at the larger goal and breaking it out into what I will accomplish over the 4 quarters of a year.  Then, build out the plan for that quarter.  I can then focus on the smaller goals and not get overwhelmed but the bigger goal

8. Ignoring the Need for Flexibility

While it’s important to stay focused and persistent, being too rigid can be detrimental. Circumstances change, and so might your goals. Flexibility allows you to adapt to changes without losing sight of your overall objectives.

Quarterly planning is a great way to build in flexibility.  When we take a moment each quarter, we provide ourselves the opportunity to make changes if something has become a bigger priority.   There have been times when I’ve completely rewritten my goals during a quarterly planning session because what was important at the start of the year is no longer a priority.  

9. Setting Goals in Isolation

Goals often impact various aspects of life or work, and setting them in isolation can lead to conflicts and challenges. It’s important to consider how your goals interact with one another and with the goals of others, such as family members or team members. This holistic view can help ensure that your goals complement each other and are more attainable.

10. Forgetting to Reward Yourself

The journey towards any goal can be long and hard. Forgetting to recognize and celebrate the milestones you achieve along the way can lead to burnout. Rewards can rejuvenate your enthusiasm and commitment. Whether it’s a small treat or a significant celebration, acknowledging your success is crucial for sustained effort and motivation.

This is one of the mistakes I regularly make. I’m great at recognizing small daily wins, but I’m not good at rewarding myself. Although I include rewards as part of the goal-setting process, I am particularly bad at setting them for myself. This is something I’m trying to work on. 


Goal setting is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, but it requires thoughtful consideration to avoid common pitfalls. By setting realistic, meaningful goals, measuring progress, and adapting to circumstances, you can enhance your ability to achieve what you set out to do. Remember, the most effective goals are those that challenge yet are achievable, keeping you engaged and motivated throughout your journey.

Is there a mistake that you make regularly that you are going to work to avoid?  Let us know. 

“One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.”

Karen Casey

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