The key to success and happiness in life is to set goals. This sentiment so prevalent today that we accept it as common sense. And for good reason too. 

Everyone has goals even when they are subconscious. Goals give us purpose, point our actions and thoughts in specific directions, and generally lead to better outcomes than if we had no goals at all. 

But why is it then, that despite the fact that most people have goals, most of them fail to go after them or rarely achieve what they want? 

The process of setting goals is more nuanced and dynamic than creating a target and going after it with just raw effort and focused attention. 

Let’s look at some top mistakes people make when setting goals and how to approach this process in a way that leads to positive outcomes.

Setting goals that are too vague

If you were to ask the question ‘what do you want in life?’ during any conversation, the likely answer that you’ll hear is that people want to be successful, happy, or meet their life’s potential.

However, goals like these don’t have an action component to them. They are states of being and their meaning varies from person to person. 

If you’ve always wanted to be successful in your life – then ask yourself what that means exactly. Do you want to start a business? Be a programmer? Reduce the high-school dropout rate in your community? 

Your overarching goal can inform your more specific objectives. When your goal looks like it has certain behaviors and action paths that lead to its fulfillment, that’s when you know its goal is specific enough. You’ll know what actions to take and keep working towards your dreams. 

Fixating on narrow paths to goal achievement

As important as it is to have clear-cut goals, it is possible to be too specific about what they are and how you’ll achieve them. When you narrow your focus too much, you can get tunnel vision and ignore better paths and opportunities available to you. 

For example, you may desire to join a specific company or university, but if you exclude any other option for yourself, you’ll find yourself with nothing in hand. 

Another mistake is to only have one path to meet your goal. If you want to make more money, be open to different paths in life. You don’t have to be a doctor or go to the best university to grow your income.

You can also start a business, do freelancing work, learn from online courses, or get into an industry where educational qualifications are not essential. 

Have a clear goal but let the path to your goal be fluid. It’s when you’re open to opportunities that you can find creative and quick ways to get what you desire. 

Focusing on the end-goal often

We’re often encouraged to keep our end-goal at the top of our minds at all times. But this strategy can backfire easily. 

Large goals can be overwhelming. And they also seem impossible to achieve when you don’t account for the time you need to fulfill them. 

Any worthwhile goal takes time. You need to build your skills, take practical steps and learn from your mistakes. 

In reality, your goal may be months or years from the present moment. In such cases, focusing on the end goal can be paralyzing and lead to procrastination.

A good strategy instead is to break up your goals into smaller tasks and then focus on meeting each milestone. 

Let the larger goal manifest on its own. Your responsibility lies in ensuring that you’re making all the small changes that you need to become the kind of person who is a leader, a business owner, a graduate, or whatever it is you seek to be. 

Back to you

Goals are driving points that give our life meaning and help us move from where we are to where we want to be. But we often make mistakes when it comes to setting and meeting our objectives. 

In this post, I’ve covered three critical mistakes and ways to overcome them. Make small changes and create sensible goals and your life will change – gradually and without fanfare but it will transform over time.