How to Accomplish Your Goals: Avoid 8 Common Mistakes

Nearly half of Americans will embark on a new set of goals this week (i.e. New Year’s Resolutions). According to the stats, the vast majority of people who make resolutions will fail to reach their goals – 92%. Furthermore, 24% fall short year after year. That reminds me of the definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting different results). Are you one of these people? If so, you likely have a flaw in your achievement strategy. If you’ve struggled to achieve your goals, allow me to show you how to overcome the most common stumbling blocks. 

Failed Attempts

I’ve had the great pleasure of helping thousands of people create effective goal plans. Over the years, I continue to hear some of the same struggles from people who have tried and failed. Can you relate to any of these experiences?

  • Life got too busy.
  • I lost motivation.
  • I’m not sure if I met my goal or not.
  • I’ve attempted this goal before and just don’t think I can do it.
  • I started off strong but I lost momentum.

Just like you, I face these challenges too. I’ve found the goals I struggle to achieve lack key elements in my plan. When those gaps are filled are when I have a far greater chance of reaching my goals.

So, what are the common challenges people face when developing an effective goal plan? How can you overcome these challenges? Read on.

8 Common Mistakes to Goal Achievement 

Whether you are setting goals for a new year, a new season, or simply to chart a new course, you’ll greatly increase your odds of attaining your goal by having a plan. It doesn’t have to be overly complex. You don’t need sophisticated software. However, you do need a plan.

When developing your goal plan, set yourself up for success by avoiding these 8 common mistakes.

1.Lack of Clarity

You have to be crystal clear on what you’re setting out to achieve. Otherwise, how do you know when you truly cross the finish line? When you don’t know where the line in the sand is, it can be hard to stay motivated and continue making progress.

Let me give you an example. The number one New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was, “lose weight.” What does that mean? How much weight do you want to lose? If you gain muscle along the way, you’ll actually gain a little weight because muscle weighs more than fat. Are you sure it’s weight you want to lose or is it fat?

A clearer version of this goal is, “Reduce body fat percentage from 26% to 16%.”

This clearer goal accounts for muscle gains and provides a more measurable and precise finish line than “lose weight.” Can you see the difference?

2. Lack of Purpose

This is often the reason behind a strong start that rapidly dwindles to a halt. Think of the goals you’ve attempted that turned out this way. Why did you pursue the goal in the first place? People set out to lose weight because they know they need to. However, if the realization itself was enough motivation, you would be making progress.

To greatly increase your success rate, you have to dig deep to identify the reasons why your goals really matter. You have to identify your why. Why is this goal important to you? What impact will it have on your life, your family, and your career? What is on the line if you don’t achieve it?

Make a list of all the reasons your goal matters. Keep it close at hand for when the going gets tough.

3. Lack of Honesty

I can’t promise that an effective goal plan will turn you into a millionaire, an astronaut, or a professional athlete. That isn’t how goals work. I’m all for optimism, but that optimism has to be grounded in reality.

Often I tell people that when I was younger I wanted to become a superstar in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Despite all my hours in the driveway, I remained a 5’9” high schooler who couldn’t dunk. As the NCAA is quick to highlight, most college athletes “go pro in something other than sports.”

You need honest self-awareness. How much time can you devote to your goal? What resources, materials, knowledge, connections, or credentials are you lacking? Make a list and determine how you will overcome the realities that stand between you and your goal.

4. Lack of Focus

Focus is a struggle for many of when it comes to goal setting. We get lost along the way. We get distracted. We get overcome by someone else’s agenda.

Typically I find that people lack focus on their goals for two reasons:
  1. They set too many goals.
  2. They don’t have a plan for reaching their goals.

The strategies of honesty, identifying your purpose, and clarifying your finish line all help to provide focus. So, if you’ve overcome the above challenges, you’re well on your way.

One additional strategy to enhance your focus on achieving your goal is to refrain from setting too many goals. I recommend that people limit the number of goals they pursue to around five. Any more than that and your attention gets spread too thin and you become ineffective. You can always add goals once one had been achieved.

5. Lack of Visibility

Another stumbling block that lends itself to a lack of focus and motivation is a lack of visibility. We get more of what we focus on. Therefore, we need to keep our focus on our goals.

The best way to do that is to create visual reminders. These can range from a simple goal list you review each morning to more creative vision boards. I’ve outlined my top five ways to create personalized visuals here.

6. Lack of Support

You know the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” We can accomplish more with the help of others. By recruiting support, we gain accountability, encouragement, wisdom, and coaching.

However, we shouldn’t share our goals with just anyone. In a popular TedTalk, Derek Sivers, warns us against sharing our goals before we accomplish them. While I don’t fully agree, I do believe that we need to be strategic in whom we choose to share our goals with.

Share your goals with people who:
  • believe you can accomplish your goal.
  • are supportive and encouraging.
  • will hold you accountable but also extend you grace.
  • are further along toward a similar goal than you are.
  • won’t put you down or berate you along the way.

I’m very fortunate that I can share my goals with my wife. Some goals I share with friends. Perhaps you’ll share different goals with different supporters in your life. That’s okay too. Just avoid the stumbling block of going it alone.

7. Lack of Urgency

Just like any other project or task you intend to accomplish, your goal needs a deadline. Without a deadline your goal will fall by the wayside. You’ll put more effort in tomorrow. Without a deadline there will always be time on the clock.

However, this stumbling block will rob you of progress and sabotage your focus and motivation.

To make your goal most effective from the outset, simply give yourself a deadline. Turn “Reduce body fat percentage from 26% to 16%” into “Reduce body fat percentage from 26% to 16% by July 1st.”

As you review your goals regularly, the deadline will loom large the closer it gets. Your desire to make progress and not miss the mark will help keep you moving forward.

8. Lack of Tracking

This stumbling block can make or break your successful goal attainment. Without some way to track your progress you:

  • don’t know how far you’ve come,
  • can’t see how far you have to go,
  • and aren’t able to celebrate the checkpoints you hit along the way.

You can track your progress in many ways. Some people cross off days on the calendar. Others use a simple check list. Still others use a smartphone app to monitor progress. The point is to find a way that works for you.

If you want to see how I set, plan, and track my goals check out my free guide, click here.

Free Download

To help you set yourself up for success and achieve your goals, I developed this free goal setting worksheet.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Setting, planning, and pursuing goals adds some spice to life. Goals keep us growing, living, and cultivating excellence in our lives. To set yourself up for success and increase your odds of achieving your goals this year avoid these 8 common stumbling blocks.

Question: Which stumbling block has caused you the most trouble when pursuing your goals? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook  or Twitter.



Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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