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3 Common Goal-Setting Mistakes to Avoid

As a behavior change coach, I see a lot of people making mistakes when they are setting goals. In this post, I’m going to talk about the most common goal-setting mistakes I see people make. I have seen a lot, but there are 3 things that really stick out to me as not only the most common goal-setting mistakes, but also the most damaging. Let’s jump into it.

Common Goal-Setting Mistake #1: Narrow Focus

The number one mistake that I see people make is focusing too much on day-to-day habits and processes without focusing on their broader identity and reasoning. What exactly do I mean by that?


There’s a big push in the world of self-help to be really specific about goals — we’ve all heard of a SMART goal. You have to know exactly what you’re doing. Know when you’re doing it. Focus on tiny habits every single day. You have to do one pushup every time you get off the toilet.


All of that is great and actually very helpful. The problem comes when you get so granular about goals that you lose sight of the bigger purpose behind them. You forget why you’re doing that singular pushup. As a result, that tiny habit— that SMART goal— becomes really easy to skip on a Tuesday when you’re busy and overwhelmed with everything else.

How To Fix It

Instead, what you need to be doing is tying in those tiny, tiny habits with the bigger identity shifts. And that brings me to mistake number two, which is kind of the opposite side of the same coin.

Common Goal-Setting Mistake #2: Broad Focus

A big trend in recent years has been to set a word for the year. Your word might be disciplined or intentional or tidy. I set a word too, don’t get me wrong. However, many people set words of intention but then DON’T get granular about how to make them happen.


I made this mistake, myself, at the beginning of last year. I set the intention to become tidy…but for the first two months of the year, I didn’t give myself specific protocols to follow to enact that intention on a day-to-day basis.


As much as we would all love to follow our intentions on autopilot, the fact is we’re busy. We have chaotic lives. On a Tuesday, when we’re stressed out…we forget about the intentions we had set.

That word you set for the year—peaceful—all of a sudden doesn’t matter anymore.

How To Fix It

But it does matter and it will matter and it will feel more salient and accessible to you IF you have a concrete plan.


So mistake number one is not having that big why, that broader intention.


Mistake number two is not having the habits and goals to get you there. We need both sides.

Common Goal-Setting Mistake #3: Skipping Self Check-ins

Number three is really simple and that is not having regular check-ins with yourself. One of the most beneficial parts of having a coach is that you’re forced to check in with your goal on a weekly basis…cuz you’re doing the check-in that you’re submitting to your coach. Even if coaching is not something that you can afford right now, you can still develop your own self-coaching practice.

How To Fix It

Set an alarm, make a calendar invite for yourself every Friday, or every Tuesday, or whenever it works for you. Use that time each week to check in with yourself and adjust on your way towards achieving that intention or goal. You set goals and achievements are not just a set-it-and-forget-it type of situation. This is not a sheet-pan dinner you can just put in the oven and check on 30 minutes later. This is something that we need to regularly be watching, checking on, and adjusting. If we do that consistently, we’ll have a much greater chance at success.

If you want an evidence-based process for avoiding common goal-setting mistakes that combines intention and day-to-day behaviors, make sure you check out our Future Self Mapping mini course. This completely free mini course identifies your Core 4 Habits and Qualities — the qualities of the person you want to become and embody. It gives you a plan to apply those things for 90 days, which makes a HUGE difference in the way you approach becoming the person that you want to be.




Also don’t sleep on checking back here for new evidence-based behavior change tips and tricks every week!

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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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