12 typical goal setting mistakes. Do you limit yourself because you don't dream big enough?

Make sure your goals support a fulfilling life
Ambition And Goal Setting. 12 typical goal setting mistakes. Make sure your goals support a fulfilling life

Common goal-setting mistake


Learn how to set better goals by overcoming these common goal-setting mistakes. These goal setting mistakes can get in the way of achieving your biggest dreams. This article is about which ones you’re doing and how to stop.

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 reach. And – because our unconscious takes that as an order – what we get isn’t the most fulfilling result.




12 typical goals setting mistakes



1. Setting unrealistic high objectives


A total lack of realism isn’t helpful. Yes, make it big and also make sure your ambitious goals are achievable. Do you know the qualities of smart goal setting? 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


As long as you are not omnipotent, you have a limited amount of time and energy. That is human. Too many goals, too few results. If you try to focus on too many goals at once, you can’t give individual goals the attention they deserve. Go for quality, not quantity. Set priorities: By focusing on a few things that matter, you’ll 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, you can’t neglect activities that bring you joy. When you set your goals, make sure that you strike the right balance between the spheres of your life.




4. Underestimating completion time


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 planed period.




5. Not appreciating temporary failure as feedback


Failure can motivate us to act as much as success can, as long we appreciate it as feedback and move on.




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. Perhaps they believe that they know what’s best for you, or maybe they want you to take a certain path or do certain things for other reasons. Your goals need to be your own – not anybody else’s.




7. Being too vague


Goals which are vague do little to inspire or motivate. They have to be specific to offer orientation and to energize 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 which are dependent 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. Reframe any negative goal so that it sounds positive. You may be surprised by the difference this makes.




10. Not reviewing the process


It takes time to accomplish goals. And sometimes it can feel that you aren’t making much progress. Don’t be afraid to change your goals if your priorities change.




11. Conflict with our identity and purpose


Our goals must be consistent with the persons we want to be; our values, and the way in which we want to serve the world. Your values are those things in your life that mean something for you. Knowing your values enables you to think clearly about your decisions, what really counts.




12. The goals are too small


Goals that lead to results that don’t lead to a fulfilling life.

Just ask me personally

Let's get into a conversation. Please post any questions that may interest other readers in the comments. If you are interested in coaching or training, for personal questions about that and appointments you can reach me by e-mail (mail@karstennoack.com), phone +49(0)30 864 213 68 and mobile phone +49(0)1577 704 53 56. You can also use this contact form. Please read the information about the privacy policy.


Karsten Noack

I have read and accept the privacy policy.


In the address bar of your browser, the URL should begin with "https://www.karstennoack.com/...". This indicates a secure connection (SSL). Whether you enter your real name is up to you.



How do you avoid common goal-setting mistakes?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

When you submit this form, it will save the used name, email address, and content. Find out more in the privacy policy.

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

First published: March 21, 2001
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: April 21, 2019
Translation: April 3, 2009
German version: