How to Avoid Common Goal Setting Pitfalls

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I can feel it on the horizon, a clean slate, a fresh start, marked by the turning of the calendar to January 1st. (But really, does anyone actually turn pages on a calendar anymore?)

It’s a great sensation to know, the whole world is leaving the past in the past and with a spirit of anticipation, looking at the possibility of the New Year! Birthdays and new calendar years, both times that naturally cause us to pause and reflect. How satisfied are we with our current situation? What are we happy with? What do we wish was different? Out of this introspection, arise new hopes and dreams, goals and intentions we’d like to see take place in our lives and businesses.

Having a background in Sales & Leadership Development, I’ve had years and years of goal setting under my belt. Not just annual goals, but fiscal year goals, quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals & even daily goals. I’ve set goals for as long as I’ve been self-employed and many years before that, even as a kid. Frankly, it’s quite a lot of goal setting! And I still love it! However, I’ve set enough goals and quit on enough goals to understand common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1. Make sure it’s YOUR goal.

PITFALL: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with a client and hear a lack of commitment in their voice as they make some grand declaration of what they want to achieve. It might be a goal they think I want to hear. It might be something they heard someone else say. Whatever the case, on a commitment scale from 1 to 10, they’re a good 1.75 and will most likely forget what they said by the end of the day or even the end of our conversation.

ASK: Where did the inspiration for this goal come from? On a scale from 1 – 10, what is your commitment level to making this happen? If it’s not a 9 or 10, it’s probably not the right goal for you.

2. Is this goal in alignment with WHO you are?

PITFALL: Some goals can be set in direct opposition to how you’re wired, immediately causing internal friction and in essence, walking that goal down a plank to certain death. Let’s say you value freedom and change, yet set a rigid goal to run four miles at 5am six days a week. You’re probably setting yourself up for failure. Or, maybe a strategic objective for the year is to rebrand your company and desire to take on this creative task on your own. However, you are an expert Consultant hired to analyze numbers and detect the story behind a client’s data. It might make more sense to hire out this project, so you can maximize the number of billable hours spent utilizing your particular strengths.

ASK: What are my values? What are my strengths? How is this goal in alignment with those? How is this goal in opposition to those? What needs to change to work around any obstacles found?

3. Know your WHY.

PITFALL: Simon Sinek says to start with “why”. You’re choosing to not go on the trip, why? It’s the picture of a certain dollar amount in savings that brings a feeling of peace and lets you feel prepared for life’s financial ups and downs. If you don’t take the trip, you’ll hit the target. In this example, the “why” is a picture of safety & security. That’s the deep motivator, it’s the differentiator and it’s the reason something will or will not get accomplished.

ASK: Why is this goal important to me? What’s at stake if I don’t achieve this goal? How will my life be different when I reach this goal?

4. Do you believe you can achieve it?

PITFALL: Vision and belief are two necessary ingredients in the secret sauce of achieving goals. The goal can belong to you. It can be in alignment with how you’re wired. You can know your “why”. But if you don’t believe it, plain and simple, it ain’t gonna happen! A clear vision without belief is a dream. A clear vision with belief is a goal. Belief is what presses the gas pedal in pursuit of the goal. Without belief, you’re sitting in a parked car. In the pursuit of a goal, the belief-o-meter can go up and down, that’s totally normal. When it’s low, sometimes we need a pep talk, other times we learn it’s not the right goal. Only allow a trusted source to help you discern between the two.

ASK: Do I truly believe I can do this? What would need to change for me to believe it can happen? What do I believe will happen?

Whether it’s hard and fast goals that drive you, or selecting a simple word or yearly intention (check out last year’s post on intention), there is no magic formula to force goals to happen. But these can offer a checkpoint to see if you’re setting yourself up for success! For further insight into goal setting, feel free to reach out to Halle for Business or Life Coaching. Or attend her upcoming workshop on January 10th, details are at

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