5 Goal-Setting Mistakes To Avoid

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I want to share with you 5 common mistakes we often make when it comes to setting goals for our business (or our life!). I share these in the hope that they’ll help you as you think about your own business + life goals for next year.

1. An absence of strategy

If you operate anything like I used to, around this time of year you may well be starting to think about all the things you’d like to achieve in your life and business next year. Before I came up with my own approach, I did this too.

Over the years, I tried all the business planning tools I could get my hands on (paid and free). Planners, goal-setting workshops, you name it I tried it. What I noticed, was that all of the guidance I was finding on business planning only ever seemed to talk about goals.

As someone who ran the business planning process for a former employer back in my project management career, I’ve been well aware for some time that goals (or targets) are just the way in which we state what we hope to get done in a period of time, but how we decide what needs to get done or how those things are actually going to get done is a whole other piece of work.

This is where we need to consider our big picture. The overall objective of our business for the year. This will differ greatly depending on your particular business and where you are at on the business growth journey. For some it might include streamlining your business model, whereas for another business it might be to expand your product range. I’ve had clients whose overall objective was to double their income whereas for others it was to maintain the income level they currently have. Once we know what we are trying to achieve, we can then set our priorities strategically and only then look at setting goals in service to those priorities.

2. Setting waaay too many goals

Nearly every conversation I ever have with a business owner about their goals for the coming year, results in me telling them they are trying to take on too much. I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell someone that they should set more goals.

Any of my clients will tell you that I often quote Bill Gates on this one:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Having been working for myself now for over a decade and having been the person setting the agenda for my own workload, I speak with experience when I say that we can usually achieve far less than we set out to at the beginning of the year. Why? Well overestimating what’s possible is one reason and also because we suffer from a fear of missing out. Many business owners suffer from shiny object syndrome and look at what other business owners are doing and feel pulled to try something similar.

For this reason, it’s hard for most people to choose just 1 or 2 key priorities to work on because there’s so much they want to do. But when we fail to focus and set ourselves too many goals, we inevitably fail in more areas than we would if, instead, we focused our efforts.

Personally, I’d much rather focus on 1 or 2 things. That way I can get those accomplished more quickly and create more space for the next thing, rather than overwhelm myself with a huge set of goals, many of which I’ll do some work on, but few, if any, I’ll be able to complete.

3. Setting unrealistic goals

I fell foul to this so many times in my early years in business. Undoubtedly swayed by all the noise in the online business world, I bought into the idea that I could make 6 figures in a short amount of time or go viral overnight with a winning piece of content.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always the first to say that anything is possible and there are always exceptions, but in my experience, making big numbers fast, whether that be in income, sign ups or audience growth, rarely happens in a way that is authentic, ethical or sustainable over the long-term.

Setting goals we are unlikely to achieve can also cause damage to our mindset and motivation. Many of us know, only too well, the disappointment that comes from failing to achieve our goals time and time again.

I used to wish for exponential results but these days my goals are rooted in sustainable and steady growth, “Slow and steady wins the race” is one of my favourite business mantras!

I also base my future goals on past experience. I’ve taken the time to track my annual income over the years and can tell you exactly what my percentage increase in revenue has been year on year since 2017, what my average percentage growth has been over the last 6 years and therefore, what percentage my income and sales are likely to increase over the next year. Arming myself with this knowledge, gives me confidence in the financial business goals I set myself.

4. Not sharing your goals with anyone

You might have done this — set goals but not told anyone what they are, so that should you fail you don’t lose face. Whilst you might never have to deal with the shame of having to admit you failed, you also miss out on the power of accountability. Knowing that people know what we are planning to do, can actually be a strong motivator when it comes to following through on our goals.

I’ve definitely used this to my advantage over the years. I remember back when I started my first blog, I set myself some huge and scary life goals, one of which was to quit, not just my job, but my entire career to travel the world and create a new more fulfilling and rewarding career as a coach. I genuinely don’t think I would have achieved half the goals I did during that period of my life, if I hadn’t been talking about them every week on my blog.

I’m not saying you have to share your goals all over the internet but sharing them with your partner, friend, business buddy or even your business audience can really help some people to dig deep when it inevitably gets hard to take action.

5. Not creating systems for your goals

This one has been huge for me. When I first learnt of this idea from George Kao, it blew my mind. George has this to say:

“The more you focus on the specifics of the goal, the more you become attached to how it must turn out.

If the end result doesn’t happen in the way you visualized — or in the timeline you expected — it can deal a blow to your self-identity, and erode your sense of self-empowerment.

I prefer to look at goals in a different, perhaps healthier way:

I focus on my systems — my daily processes — rather than my goals. “

So what does a focus on systems actually look like?

Well, let’s consider the goal of getting 100 new subscribers to your list. Most business plans would leave it there but creating a system for this goal might look like this:

Every other week on Friday afternoons, I will preview my Monday newsletter, by posting on my Facebook page what next week’s newsletter is all about along with a subscribe link for people who want to be sure to receive it.

Even better, you would then schedule this activity into your calendar and focus on following through with the system rather than the 100 new subscribers goal.

So there you have it, 5 goal-setting mistakes to avoid and what to do instead for a better chance of success with your plans next year. I’m curious, were these helpful? If so, please hit reply and let me know what your biggest insight was.

On Friday 2nd and Friday 9th December I’m hosting a 2-part online Conscious Business Planning Workshop. To get all the details and to register, head here.

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Caroline Leon

Business Coach helping conscious change makers to build and grow sustainable businesses, using strategies rooted in integrity. https://carolineleon.com