11 Common Mistakes Most People Make When Crafting and Pursuing Goals

Common Mistakes Most People Make When Crafting and Achieving Goals

“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.” — Plutarch

As we consider moving forward into the process of becoming more intentional and purposeful with goals, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss some very common mistakes that are easy for anyone to make when getting started constructing their goals. By taking a few minutes now to discuss some of the pitfalls that can derail us in the goal-crafting process, we can save ourselves some heartache, discouragement and disappointment in the near future. You may even recognize some of these pitfalls as hurdles that you have struggled to overcome in the past on your personal development journey. However, be encouraged! Today is a new day.

Thinking about the destination and not the journey.

It has been said that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. When crafting goals, it can be easy to set a very long-range goal and not address the 1,000 miles and many steps in between that it takes to get there. When tackling a long-range goal, we need to think about small steps that can be taken this day, this week, this month and this quarter and plan around those first.

Juggling too many goals at once.

You need to stay focused on your highest couple of priorities at the most, if not just the #1 priority (depending on the size and scope of the goal). You will need to work toward that smaller target with high intensity focus, then repeat your process and efforts with lower priority goals as is reasonable and doable for your situation. Take the necessary steps to identify and focus on your highest priority and highest potential goals.

Not calculating extra time for the process of changing habits.

Oftentimes our goals are not only about adding or changing actions, they are actually more about changing the way we think about our lives and priorities. You will need to give yourself the extra time and space needed to form new habits and then put those practices and habits into place to support your goals. Think about literally changing who you are, not just what you do. Our outward habits simply provide us a glimpse into our inner values and a reflection of our priorities.

Focusing on past mistakes instead of future possibilities.

Now is the time to let go of the things that you wish you would have done up unto this point in your life. It is much more productive to look forward toward new possibilities than it is to succumb to the guilt or weight of past failures. You are not trying to catch up; you are trying to move forward. Any progress from this day forward needs to be celebrated. This mentality will also hold true in the coming days as you journey ahead. Always take time to celebrate the wins along the way!

Not being true to yourself.

Be doubly sure that your goals are about what you want and need to reach your own personal best and to fulfill your unique calling and crafting from your Creator. Don’t set goals that will only fulfill the purposes or plans of those around you. Embrace your personal uniqueness and pursue it. Take the time to explore personal values and personal convictions. Personally meaningful goals get much more attention and foster greater perseverance and endurance.

Setting goals that are too hard or too easy.

Taking it too easy on yourself or expecting too much of yourself both have an equally negative effect on your progress. Asking too little of yourself won’t truly move you forward to where you want to be. Asking too much of your self, too soon, will ultimately leave you discouraged and defeated. Setting a realistic, but challenging, pace that fits where you are today is crucial.

Not taking into account what influences on your goals are out of your control.

Remember to focus your goals on the things that you can control. You may be able to leverage some influence on others or a situation, but ultimately you will only be able to fully control yourself and your reactive or proactive responses and actions. Shape your goals around you and what you can control. The change that you want to see in your life must begin with you.

Framing your goals from a “stop this” as opposed to a “start this” perspective.

Psychologically and emotionally speaking, it is much more motivating to frame your goals around a better and more positive future. You may want to lose weight, so it seems logical to set a goal of “stop eating high-calorie meals” and granted, that is an accurately stated goal. However, a better and more palatable and encouraging goal may be “start tracking my calories in a mobile app daily.” The focus is on progress, not restriction or deprivation.

Being too vague about what the next best step looks like.

One of the greatest questions that you can ask yourself as you craft goals and then begin to move toward them is “What is the very next small step that will make a really big difference?” Stay focused on small next steps. Once you have defined the small next steps, be as detailed and determined as possible about defining what those next steps look like. You want your next steps to be very descriptive with exacting directive terms.

Not enlisting an accountability partner or coach to keep you on track.

If at all possible, don’t travel this journey alone. You need someone in your life who knows that you are trying to make progress and that can check in on your progress and motivation often. I personally get the privilege of coaching many people in many contexts who can attest to the fact that having a partner on the journey has an undeniably positive and influential impact on the actual results over time. Invite others to help you be successful.

Giving failure or lack of progress too much power.

Remember that failure and setback are a normal part of long-term progression. There is a reason that a batter in baseball gets three attempts when swinging the bat and an offense on the football field has four opportunities to progress down the field. It is because failure is just as integral a part of true growth as success is. Learn from your failures; don’t allow them to throw you off track. Be prepared to fail and give yourself the permission you need now. Failure is an opportunity, not an identity.


Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of the potential mistakes that we can easily make, or may have made when it comes to crafting and pursuing meaningful goals. But, it is enough to begin helping you get in the right mind-set toward setting up some preventative guardrails that will keep you between the ditches as you travel this road today and in the days up ahead.

I want to be honest with you. There will be more obstacles in your path toward success than you can predict today. Sometimes you may find that the best offense may be a good defense. It will depend greatly on your particular goals and objectives. So be smart, be dynamic and be ready to exercise creativity and flexibility in the process. It is absolutely normal and necessary to make course corrections along the way as you travel this expedition of pursuing your personal potential. Don’t get discouraged by it; expect it. Being prepared today will help you be successful tomorrow.

What goal crafting mistakes have you made, or seen others make, that you would add to the list?

This post content was taken as an excerpt from my new e-book: Build a Better Future – A guide to crafting and achieving meaningful goals. – scheduled for release in early 2014. Subscribe via email – facebook or twitter to  get a free pdf copy when it is released.

About Ken McGarity

With vast experience as a successful entrepreneur and active in ministry leadership for many years, Ken McGarity is most recently engaged as a Church Growth Consultant and Strategist, as well as Christian Leadership Coach to today’s up and coming Christian leaders.

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