12 Typical Goal-Setting Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Make sure your goals support a fulfilling life. Do you limit yourself because you don't dream big enough?
Ambition And Goal Setting. 12 typical goal setting mistakes. Make sure your goals support a fulfilling life

Common goal-setting mistake


Some goal-setting mistakes can get in the way of achieving your biggest dreams. Learn how to set better goals by overcoming common goal-setting mistakes.


The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.


Think big, avoid goal-setting mistakes


Many of us limit ourselves to small dreams. One reason may be that we believe that bigger dreams are beyond our range. And – because our subconscious takes that as a mandate – what we get isn’t the most fulfilling result.




15 typical goals setting mistakes



1. Setting unrealistically high objectives


A total lack of realism is not helpful. Yes, make it big. But also make sure that your ambitious goals are achievable. Do you know the qualities of smart goals? Let me remind you.

To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be smart. Here are the questions to do that.:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
    • What do I want to accomplish?
      Think about exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and don’t be afraid to get very detailed.
    • Why is this goal important?
    • Who is involved?
      Consider who needs to be involved to achieve the goal.
    • Where is it located?
    • Which resources or limits are involved?
      Determine any related obstacles or requirements. This question can also be beneficial in deciding if your goal is realistic.
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
    • How much?
    • How many?
    • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
    • How can I accomplish this goal?
    • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
    • Does this seem worthwhile?
    • Is this the right time?
    • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
    • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
    • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time and cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
    • When?
    • What can I do six months from now?
    • What can I do six weeks from now?
    • What can I do today?




2. Too many goals


Quality over quantity is important when you’re setting goals. As long as you are not omnipotent, you have limited time and energy at your disposal. That is the case with us humans. It’s common to get excited about goal setting and in the midst of it set so many goals. You only have so much time to accomplish your goals, so choose wisely. Too many goals tend to reduce good results. If you try to focus on too many goals at the same time, you cannot give individual goals the attention they deserve.

Focus on quality, not quantity. Set priorities: By focusing on a few important goals, you will use your resources more efficiently.




3. Focusing on too few areas


Many areas are important for a fulfilling life. Focusing only on your career isn’t enough. Too many people focus solely on their work when they set goals. However, activities that give pleasure should not be neglected. When you set your goals, make sure you find the right balance between the areas of your life.




4. Underestimating the time of completion


If you don’t give yourself enough time to achieve your goals, you may end up frustrated and give up. make sure your goal has a chance of succeeding in the planned period.




5. Not appreciating temporary failure as feedback


Failure, like success, can motivate us to continue and act if we value it as feedback and continue.




6. Following a path that isn’t ours


Other people like family, friends or even your boss may want to influence the goals you set. Maybe they think they know what’s best for you, or maybe they want you to go a certain way or do certain things for other reasons. Your goals must be your own – not those of anyone else.




7. Being too vague


Vague goals do little to inspire or motivate. They must be specific to provide orientation and motivate us.




8. Setting goals beyond your influence


You are responsible for your life and your actions. That is what lies within your control. Setting goals that depend on others put your success in the hands of others. Your goals should focus on what you can control.




9. Only knowing what we don’t want


It isn’t enough to know what we don’t want. Make your goals sound positive and attractive. Negative goals are emotionally unattractive, which makes it hard to focus on them. Realign any negative goal to sound positive. You will be surprised at the difference that makes.




10. Not reviewing the process


It takes time to achieve goals. And sometimes it can feel like you’re not making much progress. Don’t be afraid to change your goals when your priorities change.




11. Conflict with our identity and purpose


Our goals need to match the individual we want to be, our values and the way we want to serve the world. Your values are the most important factors in your life that mean something to you. Knowing your values allows you to think clearly about your choices and what matters.




12. The goals are too small


Think big when setting your goals. There are often a lot of single goals that lead to a big goal. But some goals are too small. It requires the right size of goals that lead to results leading to a fulfilled life.




13. Not knowing your why


Having goals without knowing why you have them is going to leave you unfulfilled even after you accomplish them. Instead of setting random goals, focus on why they are significant to you.

What is your purpose in life or in the area you’re setting goals? What is your motivation for setting those goals? How about your priorities? Once you know your why, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals and enjoy a fulfilling life.




14. Not having your goals in written form


You may have a perfect memory. Anyway: It’s so important that you write down your goals. I see so often what happens when people don’t do it. It doesn’t matter where you write it down, as long as you do it.

Writing down your goals is an indicator of your likelihood to achieve your goals.




15. Not thinking long term


Setting goals based on your daily tasks and what you need to accomplish in the immediate future without thinking about the long-term, limits your possibilities.

Coaching for decisions


Decisions have to be made over and over again - small and large. Some are easy, some are difficult. We make many of these decisions without having to think much about them or even completely unconsciously, automatically. But now and then we come to the point where we encounter a decision where we pause, don't know what to do, don't see clearly. Often these are decisions of great importance that also have the ability to question important aspects of life that were previously considered given or untouchable. Such a situation can create pressure and even lead to paralysis, so that creative and constructive ways remain unconsidered.

Who sees clearly, can decide better and act purposefully. In order for this to succeed, it is necessary to ensure that the options are identified and, if necessary, increased and priorities clarified. Decision coaching helps to oversee the forest for the trees and to find the right focus. The best decision and creativity techniques can be used most effectively in a good mental state.

In order to make your decision easier, to be supported by me, I focus on transparency. On these pages you will find information about me (Karsten Noack) and the fees.

Just ask me personally


Please post any questions that may interest other readers in the comments. Are you looking for professional support?

If you are interested in coaching, training, or consulting, for organizational questions and to make an appointment, you can reach me best by e-mail (mail@karstennoack.com). You can reach me by telephone at +49(0)30 864 213 68 and mobile phone at +49(0)1577 704 53 56 from Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 18:00. Most of the time I am in sessions, so please leave a message with your phone number in Germany, then. Please remember to be very specific about the reason for your call. I will call you back as soon as possible. The privacy policy can be found here.

Transparency is important. Therefore you will find answers to frequently asked questions already here, for example about me (profile), the services, the fees, and getting to know me. If this suits you, I look forward to working with you.



How do you avoid common goal-setting mistakes?


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More contentment through self-acceptance or does that reduce the motivation?

Many people consider discontentment to be the most important motivator. My observation: We are happier when we learn to accept ourselves as we truly are. And we stimulate personal development this way.

This article is a short excerpt from the more comprehensive course materials my clients receive in a group or individual training or coaching.

Published: June 21, 2001
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: August 20th, 2023
Translation: ./.
German version:

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