5 Big Mistakes People Make When Setting Their Goals

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Year’s? Depending on your stage of life, you might think of champagne and dancing, or a hot cup of tea by the fire with your journal. Whether or not you stay up late enough to see the ball drop, chances are you will think, however briefly or deeply, about changes you’d like to make in 2018. What will you manifest? What are your goals

If you’re one of the approximately 40 percent of Americans who set goals around this time of year, you’re likely making some big mistakes as you rev up for your resolutions. Data suggest that as few at 8 percent of people actually succeed in following through on their resolutions.

What can you do to not become another statistic on the side of failed resolutions and goals? Here are five of the biggest mistakes people make, and how to set yourself up for success as you make your plans for this New Year.

1. Going Too Big

One mistake people make is going too big with their goal or goals. That’s not to say to squelch your dreams, but when you make a goal, it must be doable. You’ll likely have a hard time, for instance, cutting something out of your diet completely, or doing something every single day, if it’s in direct opposition to what you’re doing now. The popular “lose weight” resolution, for example, might become a goal of “go to the gym every morning before work.” But if you don’t even belong to a gym, you’re making too big of a leap in your lifestyle routine for it to become a sustainable habit. “Cut out sugar” might be your overall intention, but you have to ask yourself if it’s reasonable to expect yourself never to eat sugar again.

While the desire to improve upon a habit is worth investigating, if you make a goal that is too broad, intense, or far away from your current position, consider making smaller steps instead. You have to climb a ladder rung by rung; you can’t just jump to the top. 

2. Choosing Too Many Goals

Die-hard goal setters often make a mistake of seeing the New Year as a time to reevaluate every arena of life, and make simultaneous goals in each one of those areas. Overdoing the number of goals will quickly overwork your system and spread your awareness too thin.

To succeed in your goals, commit to no more than three at a time. Allow yourself to focus on your most important areas of improvement, and give yourself clear expectations in terms of action steps and timelines. If you take on too many goals at once, you’ll lose steam as soon as your adrenaline wears off, and your self-confidence will go with it. By choosing 1-3 goals at a time, you’ll be far more likely to actually follow through, without shocking your system with too much change.

3. Focusing on Outer Attainment

As you look at your list of goals, how do they make you feel? Do you feel energized and excited at the thought of both the achievement and the process of going after them? Or do you feel a sense of dread, as if the goal is in response to someone else’s expectations of you, rather than your desire to feel a certain better?

In her book The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte says that all goals spring forth from a desire to feel a certain way, and only when you focus on the feelings you want to feel, are you really creating “goals with soul.” When you only focus on the outcome, numbers, rank, checkmarks, and gold stars, your goals become just another thing on a to-do list. When approaching life-enhancing, life-affirming goals that light you up, it is vital to ask yourself WHY you want to achieve them. Be sure that what you focus on speaks to your soul’s desire to flourish, and not your limited mindset creating another boring list of things that you know deep down you’re never going to complete. 

4. Thinking It’s Just About Willpower

If you look at your goals, and they excite you and motivate you to succeed, you will likely start giving yourself an inner pep talk of how to tackle the goals come January 1. You know that you’ll need to create a plan, put it in writing, and strengthen your willpower to follow through.

But the environment you create around your goals is just as important than the amount of willpower you have. How can you design your environments so you can increase the likelihood of following through on your good habits? For example, eliminating sweets from your pantry creates an environment where you don’t have to struggle to choose something healthy to snack on. Putting your phone on Airplane mode when you’re trying to write a paper will reduce the amount of self-control it will take not to check your social media apps. Setting out your meditation cushion the night before will make it that much easier for you sit first thing in the morning.

If you give yourself room to mentally waiver about whether or not you will or won’t do something, you will likely fail before you’ve even had the chance to fully experience the habit or goal in the first place. This type of preparation and attention to your environment will increase your success rate dramatically.

5. Waiting Until January 1

Finally, most people wait until the first of the year to begin working on their goals and resolutions. This is why the vast majority of people give up by February 1! Ease into it. Take the weeks (or months) leading up to the New Year to test out your intended habits, and make sure you are on the right path.

If you want to read more books in 2018, start one now. If you want to eliminate animal products from your diet, start reducing your dairy intake now and see how you feel. If you want to have $10,000 in your savings account by the end of next year, start tithing and putting the money away now.

By starting the process before New Year’s Day, you invite in a surge of positive energy that you can ride right through the holidays and into the next year. Should you discover that a habit didn’t actually make you feel like you thought it would and deserves a tweak, you have the time to do it, and you will feel more proud and capable going forward. Goal setting is supposed to feel good! 

So here’s to a successful goal-setting season! With just a handful of adjustments to your goal-setting prowess, this can be your best year yet.


Learn how to avoid the pitfalls on the road to success and discover why mindfulness is the key to achieving your goals with The Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now.


 

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About the Author

Karson McGinley

Yoga Teacher and Life Coach
Karson McGinley is the owner of Happy-U Yoga in San Diego, California. A teacher for over a decade, Karson works to bridge the gap between the ancient wisdom of yoga and the modern science of human flourishing through her classes, bi-weekly article contributions to The Chopra Center, and leading the Happy-U Yoga & Positive Psychology Teacher Training program. Karson teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, and Anusara Elements™ classes, inspired by the teachings of Classical and Tantric yogic philosophy, positive psychology, and metaphysical texts like A Course in Miracles . By sharing spiritual themes, scientific research, and anecdotal...Read more