6 Huge Goal Setting Mistakes (and How to Prevent Them)

Do you set goals each year (perhaps around New Years) and aren't able to meet them? Trust me, I know how frustrating goal setting can be when goals are not successfully met.

But recently I've found my goal setting much more successful by simply avoiding these 6 huge (but common) goal setting mistakes.

I want to share with you about how to effectively set goals and avoid these goal setting mistakes so that you too can make positive, lasting change in your life!

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Setting Goals? Avoid These 6 Big Goal Setting Mistakes

Goal Setting Mistake #1: We try to accomplish our goals without God’s power and grace in every step of the process.

Making progress toward a goal without God’s power and grace is kind of like trying to scale a wall covered in mud (which I had to do once in a 10K mud run… but that’s another story).

God's grace is not just an abstract concept that we call upon when we need forgiveness but instead a practical, powerful tool essential for successfully setting and completing goals.

God's grace and wisdom lights our path on the perilous road to accomplishing goals.

Chances are that we won’t take the exact path that we thought we would, and that we are going to have to make some tough decisions along the way. God's grace is that power we can call upon to stay focused on the goal; and his wisdom allows us to adjust the course should things have changed.

Most of all God’s grace is our foundation through the changes. We aren’t ever, ever going to meet our goals perfectly, and we need that voice of truth telling us that, yes, we’re still 100 percent loved despite the outcome of our goal setting.

Goal Setting Mistake #2: We don’t look back before we look forward.

What happened last year? What were the big lessons learned? How did the past year change us, for the worse or the better?

I think these are critical questions to ask before we embark on setting goals. It’s like that oft-quoted phrase: “if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it.”

In fact, whenever I've found success in meeting a goal, it's always because I took the time to look back at what happened in the past before I try to tackle the future.

This is such a critical step because, as I'm setting goals for next year, I don't want to carry any baggage from last year's experiences. I've found that I'm able to get much more clarity about my future goals if I've already considered the lessons of last year.

Take a few moments to recall this year's events (especially thinking through the harder moments) in before jumping into next year. And speaking of learning from the hard times…

Goal Setting Mistake #3: We can’t see the opportunities for success hidden in the trials.

More often than not, what is the catalyst for great success? A difficult situation. I’m always reminding my kids of this truth.

Like it or not, God shows up (and shapes us) through life's trials.

I often find that God gives me the greatest opportunity for change when He puts me smack dab in the middle of a difficult situation (James 1:2-4). I'm given the choice of whether to respond in a more Christ-like manner (which will produce the change in habits I'm seeking); or to complain and respond poorly (completely squelching the God-given opportunity for change).

As you set goals, don't make light of the difficulties you're enduring. In fact, I'd encourage you to lean into the pain and ask God what goals for change can be made within (or because of) recent trials.

Goal Setting Mistake #3: We view accomplishing our goals as pass or fail.

Sometimes we get so narrow-minded in how we define a goal's success. Is a goal only successful if it is fully met? All too often we let unrealistic expectations define our outcomes and thus shoot down any beautiful progress we have made.

I have been learning to celebrate all progress toward a goal and to be much more flexible with myself. It’s a happier way to set and achieve goals, friends!

Goal Setting Mistake #4: We mistakenly believe that every goal has an end point.

Year after year, I find myself setting the same types of goals. Things like: Work out. Eat right. Spend more time with God.

I used to really beat myself up about that because I felt like “Haven't I accomplished that goal yet?” Why do I have to keep goal planning for these? The guilt monster used to settle in here too because, well, he loves to jump on any opportunity to show me how I could have done something better.

But the last few years I've taken a different perspective on these ongoing goals. Instead of being frustrated that these goals don't have an endpoint, I assess these goal annually based on how much progress I've made on them. I ask myself, “What new aspects of these issues do I want to consider in my goal setting?”

Instead of beating myself up for having to (still) work in these areas, I choose to:

  • celebrate the great changes I've seen,
  • notice the areas where I may have slipped and;
  • specifically determine how I need to grow in these areas for my current life season.

Goal Setting Mistake #5: We compare our goals' progress with that of others’ progress toward their goals.

This is something God has been speaking to me about loud and clear the last few months. This summer, I saw the comparison monster move into my heart and snatch up my joy in huge handfuls. Why do we allow comparison to steal the progress we do make in our goal setting?  It’s an awful pit for sure and definitely stifles our growth toward a goal.

I discovered this quote recently and it has brought so much freedom:

“It’s not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you were yesterday.” (Unknown)

Am I better than I was yesterday? If the answer is yes, then that is enough! And if others are or are not accomplishing their goals, it doesn’t matter. Am I making progress? That's the ultimate question!

Life changing, right?

More Resources for Goal Setting:

Podcast Episodes About Goal Setting:


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