5 critical mistakes to avoid when goal-setting

Are you kicking 2021 off by setting fresh goals? Good call — having goals can help you stay focused and get so much more out of the new year.

“Goals give life meaning, direction and purpose, and help you get out of bed with enthusiasm every single day,” says best-selling author and online fitness marketing coach Vince Del Monte, who has been setting yearly goals ever since he was 13 with his dad.

While it’s important to enjoy the journey and find fulfillment in the present moment without waiting for something external to make you happy, having a results-oriented mindset can also enhance your life and career.

“Results matter and a goal-oriented mindset helps teach that. That’s a very crucial lesson in my opinion because I think a lot of people like to say it’s just the journey that matters, but no, arriving at the destination actually matters too. Who you become is important, but getting there is also crucial.”

But don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Making mistakes during the process of goal-setting can backfire and discourage you. Here are five critical mistakes to avoid when choosing your goals for the new year.

1. No timelines

Without a timeline, it’s so easy for a goal to fall to the side. “The biggest common mistake is that people don’t give their goals deadlines. Without a deadline, it’s just a dream, it’s just an idea. We need to create urgency and work against the clock, and there needs to be a consequence for not achieving the goal,” says Del Monte.

Assess your goals. Are they things that you want to have achieved by the very end of next year? Or are there some goals on the list that will most likely be accomplished by mid-year? Estimating how much time you’re giving yourself for tackling your various objectives will ensure you keep your eyes on the finish line.

2. Zero accountability

According to Del Monte, there are three types of accountability: self-accountability (telling yourself that you’re going to accomplish something), coach accountability (hiring a coach to work with you), and public or peer accountability.

Peer accountability is the most important one because it’s about mentioning your goals to people you don’t want to disappoint. “The most powerful way to set goals is to tell a best friend or someone you truly do not want to let down.”

Setting goals without factoring in mechanisms for staying accountable is a mistake you’ll want to avoid if you want to be successful.

3. Not being well-rounded

Glorifying hustle culture and burnout is so yesterday. Del Monte says that, when setting goals, it’s important to favor well-roundedness over single-mindedness.

“You don’t want to be a one-dimensional human being, you want to set goals in your physical life, intellectual life (which can be related to your career, mindset or growth), relational/emotional life (could be goals you want to set with your spouse or family members), and spiritual life,” he says.

From health and fitness to career and relationships, think of the areas of your life you want to give attention to in the coming year. And avoid falling into the pitfall of focusing on one area at the detriment of others.

4. Being too conceptual

Don’t make the mistake of being too vague or conceptual. Starting with broad intentions is a great way to find more clarity around what you want to do in the next year, but don’t stop there.

“I’m a big believer in smart, concrete goals instead of conceptual goals. Memorizing 52 bible verses over the course of the year is a clear and smart goal. So is earning $10K per month or getting down to 8% body fat,” says Del Monte.

“People who say, ‘I want to be more thoughtful’ need to add a tangible action to the goal.”

What kind of measurable result would help you identify in an instant whether you successfully achieved a goal? Take a moment to reflect on your goals and ask yourself whether they are concrete and easy to track and measure or whether it would be best to flesh them out a little bit further.

5. Trying to do too much

Trying to do too much is a recipe for failing to achieve your goals. Yes, you want to have goals for different categories of your life. And that’s exactly why it’s crucial to have one big goal per category instead of aiming to do all the things and stretching yourself thin.

Del Monte uses a technique he calls O-M-G: One major goal. “You want to have one major goal per category,” he says.

“For example, this year for my physical goal, I’m going to get down to 10% body fat. For my intellectual goal, I’m going to read one book per month. For my spiritual goal, I’m going to memorize one Bible verse per week. For my emotional/relational goal, I’m going to have one date night with my wife per week.”

“If you can achieve just those four goals, imagine how different your life would be at the end of the year. Slow is the name of the game, less is more — to be more, do less.”