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‘The Pursuit’ Blog

Five Common Goal-Setting Mistakes

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I sometimes enjoy setting goals more than actually pursuing them. Setting a goal can be exhilarating – after all, when you choose a goal, you instinctively think about how it will feel to accomplish the goal. You may even tell a friend about what you’re planning, which enhances your excitement. 

However, the hard part (doing the work necessary to achieve the goal) comes next. The initial rush of choosing a goal is quickly replaced with feelings of uncertainty about the process and the discomfort of doing hard and unfamiliar tasks. If you don’t carefully approach the process of setting goals and planning for how you’ll accomplish them, you’ll be more likely to prematurely quit your goals and leave your potential unfulfilled. 

To help you better prepare to achieve your goals, I’d like to share five common goal-setting mistakes people often make when initially choosing goals:

  • Thinking too big. If your goal is too big, you may get discouraged if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. As we talked about last week, the idea of shooting for the moon and landing among the stars is only partially valid. 
  • Thinking too small. You don’t want your goal to be too big, but you also don’t want to choose a goal that doesn’t stretch or challenge you. They won’t motivate you in the same way, and they won’t help you reach your fullest potential.
  • Ignoring obstacles. Ignoring obstacles on the path to reaching your goals won’t make them go away. Consider beforehand what challenges you might face along the way, and make plans in advance for how you’ll approach potential issues.
  • Ignoring progress. One of the biggest mistakes high achievers make is failing to take time to celebrate their progress. Not only does this reinforce how far you’ve already come, but it also gives you extra motivation to continue moving forward.
  • Expecting perfection. Completing a goal is not a linear process. You’ll have to figure out how to move past your mistakes and overcome various setbacks if you’re ever going to achieve your goals. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Instead, recognize that it’s an essential part of the process and look for ways to continue moving forward even if things don’t go according to your original plans.

Let me share a bonus idea about goal-setting before we wrap up. One of my current favorite books is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. In this book, Clear argues that winners and losers both have the same goals, and that focusing on systems (rather than goals) is the best way to ensure continued progress and development.

In other words, you’re better off focusing on the daily actions or systems that will help you achieve your goals rather than focusing intensely on the goal itself. This will make your goal seem more attainable, and it will ensure that you’re always making continued progress (however small it is).

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.” – Luke 14:28-29