Setting Goals: Mistakes to Avoid

To increase your chances of achieving your goals, it's crucial to learn the art of setting them correctly, starting with knowing which pitfalls to avoid.
The gradsingapore Team
Dawn Yip
Setting Goals: Mistakes to Avoid

Setting goals, on paper, seems like a no-brainer; you just need to decide what you want to achieve, and then commit to it. But realistically, of all the goals that have ever been set, both personal and professional, not many of them ever come to fruition. In fact, statistics have found that we tend to flop more than succeed when it comes to fulfilling our goals, with roughly 70% of goal-setters failing to achieve them.

That doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to be part of that percentage. There are ways to improve your chances at succeeding in your goals – starting with knowing the common hurdles and mistakes to avoid when setting them.

1. Having unrealistic goals

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. On paper, having big, lofty goals might seem like a good way to motivate you to take risks and work harder than ever. However, in most cases, this way of thinking tends to cause more harm than good.

By setting unrealistic goals, you’re likely going to overexert yourself to meet (often) impossible standards, which can lead to burnout and high stress. Plus, failing to meet them can leave you feeling frustrated, disappointed and unmotivated. With this in mind, it’s critical to ensure that the goals you set for yourself are realistic and attainable while still reasonably challenging.


2. Your goals are too vague

It’s not enough to simply say that you want to bring in more clients this month, or that you want to sell more products this year. After all, what does that exactly entail? What are the steps you need to take to get there? If you can’t visualise the results you want, it makes it difficult to not only make progress, but harder to track it as well.

For example, you’re thinking of improving your scope of industry knowledge. To achieve this, you take steps to attend a training workshop and conference every month to learn about new industry trends and its best practices.


3. There's too much on your plate at once

Setting too many goals at once can often be worse than having none at all, especially if they get in the way of each other. Multitasking (which isn’t as efficient as you’d think) can leave you constantly stretched thin and unable to focus or prioritise anything. As a result, not only will it be tough to make progress towards your goals, you may also wind up with mediocre to poor results in the end.

Instead, use the ‘quality over quantity’ rule when setting goals; this way you’ll be able to give your goals the proper attention and effort they deserve.


4. You're inflexible about your goals

Having a clear path and a well-thought-out plan for your goals is crucial, but sometimes, life is unpredictable. New challenges and hurdles, whether in your personal or professional life, can impede your progress or stop it in its tracks completely. These setbacks can leave you disappointed and less motivated to keep going, especially if you’re trying to follow your original plan to the letter.

However, this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. A better (and more practical) approach to goal-setting is to do so with flexibility in mind. For example, your original goal was to get a managerial role by this year, but later found it too ambitious. Instead, you can scale it back by taking more initiatives and showcasing your leadership skills to the team.


5. You're too afraid to fail

No one enjoys the feeling of failure; in fact, a survey by Linkagoal found that 31% of adults admit to being scared of failing. While these feelings are valid, they can be problematic when they get in the way of achieving your goals, frequently by giving up too early or not trying at all.

However, the fact is that failure is a part of life, and a necessary component of success; it can give you fresh insight and potentially open doors to new opportunities down the road. It’s okay to be worried about messing up – the important thing is to just do it anyway, learn from your mistakes (if they happen) and deal with them as best you can.


Achieving your goals is a matter of strategy, willpower and most importantly, commitment. You won’t always get it right the first time, and in some cases, you might still fall short anyway. But as long as you keep these pitfalls in mind and adopt a can-do attitude, you’ll always have a fighting chance at success.