The 4 Top Goal-Setting Mistakes People Make

Dear Mama,

Goal setting is a skill that can revolutionize your life. Setting and achieving goals that matter to you personally is one of the most important things you can learn and do in your life, but it’s also something most of us struggle with. 

Mistake #1: They don’t have an exciting vision.

We’re told to make goals specific and measurable - and this is important. But what doesn’t get said enough is that goals need to be exciting. They need to be compelling. They need to inspire our enthusiasm.

When you have a vision for yourself and what you want to achieve, it will light you up. Your vision will light a fire that keeps you going when the going gets tough.

The language you use around goal-setting matters. Be wary of goals that come from a place of lack, of not being enough.

Effective goal-setting doesn’t begin with the language “I should.” The language of “should” is disempowering.  It puts you in a place of resentment. And it’s unusual for someone to take empowered action starting from a place of resentment towards herself.

Instead, get clear on an end result that you feel genuinely excited about. Get as clear as possible about your vision for that end result. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Paint a picture in language that lights you up.

Mistake #2: They don’t break their goal down into manageable pieces.

If your goal is exciting enough to compel you forward, it’s also big enough to be scary. It’s a natural reaction to look at a big, scary, exciting goal and think “Umm…..maybe next year. When I have more time/money/childcare/support.” 

When we try to start with something too big, it’s overwhelming, and we don’t get anywhere!

Once you’re clear on your goal, be sure to break it down into manageable steps. Very small, very manageable steps. 

Imagine you’re playing the role of a doula, helping a sister or friend through her first labor. Are you going to say, “Don’t worry, only about twelve more hours of this, and it’ll get most intense at the end…”? No way! If she’s struggling you’d say something more like “All you need to do is get through the next one. It’s only one minute long, and you can do anything for one minute.” 

I’m not a doula but I think you can see what I’m getting at here. Give yourself one small step to conquer at a time. Break your goal down as small as you need to go in order to get started and keep moving.

Mistake #3: They don’t put themselves in the driver’s seat.

Pay attention to the language you use around time.

Do you say things like, “I don’t have time to….”

What if you flipped that script and instead you said, “I don’t choose to make time for …. right now.”

When you own your choices about what you make time for, you open up exciting possibilities for yourself.

You always have the power to choose. And you are always making choices. 

Acknowledging yourself as the owner and author of those choices puts you consciously in the driver’s seat. And that’s how you steer yourself in the direction you want to go.

Mistake #4: They confuse the path with the destination.

You can achieve a goal even if you don’t know how to do it yet.

Once you’re clear on your destination - your end result - you can set out in that direction. But it’s pretty rare that you’ll steer in a straight line all the way there without ever stopping, swerving, asking for directions, or needing to pause and study a map.

If you focus too much on which path to take to get to your goal, chances are you’ll balk when you come up against an obstacle (or never even take the first step). You might think that if you have to take a detour, you’ve failed. You might think if you need to pause for awhile that your goal is unattainable and you might as well give up.  

But roadblocks and detours aren’t failures! They’re just obstacles, and new paths can be taken to steer you around them. 

Keep a steady, clear, exciting vision of your goal in front of you. And then be make a flexible plan for how to get there. Choose your destination and stick to it. Plan your route and be ready to make changes as needed.


Thriving Mamaskelly ehrman