Did You Fall Into The Biggest Trap Of Goal Setting?

Goal Setting! It’s a wonderful thing. All you have to do is set a goal and now your life is on easy street! Or is it...

Wait, hold on a minute; I thought goal setting is all the rage? All I have to do is set a goal, everything becomes clear and all my next steps instantly appear right? Well, I guess that is possible, but you have to be careful to avoid the biggest trap of goal setting, not having a plan in place.

A Wilson volleyball in the sand.

Have you ever seen the movie Castaway? Tom Hanks was stranded on a deserted island for four years, and he only had one goal: to get back home. But his desire turned into desperation after three long years of doing everything humanly possible just to survive in an unforgiving environment with no hope of rescue. No matter what I do or how hard I try, there is not enough food! He thought, as all sanity left him, when he became too weak from starvation that even attempting escape seemed futile. At any point during those 3 terrible years, our protagonist could have given up on survival and resigned himself to die alone; but instead of giving up completely, we see something amazing. He made a big goal to escape the island, with a plan in place.

A map with I've got big plans written on it.

What are your big goals?

For Tom Hanks, this was a big goal. What big goals do you have that you haven’t achieved yet? When you go after your goals, is it a walk in the park for you or are there obstacles that you need to overcome? It’s likely that you have encountered obstacles or you would have everything that you want in life already.

A blue background with two people in shadow, climbing up an obstacle structure.

Overcoming obstacles in goal setting

So what are these obstacles? Well, there is a huge variety of them. They can be physical, mental, or spiritual and they differ from person to person and from goal to goal. Knowing the specific details of the obstacles is nice, but what really matters is having the ability to consistently navigate around whatever might come up.

A woman sitting at a desk working on a tablet.

Make sure you have a clear goal

There are major areas where obstacles develop and the first area is not having a clear target or goal. If you have no clue as to what your target is, how can you possibly know if you hit it? How can you start to plan a means to get there? This is why your goal setting, you must be specific and clear. You can find more information about writing specific goals in this post.

A journal with a to do list. There's a hand holding a pen on the journal.

Goal setting requires a plan

The second major area of breakdown is not having a clear plan or road map to follow. Your goal is doomed to remain in this dream state if you never take specific steps towards it.

This step of making a plan is especially important if you are trying to tackle a big goal. If you have a goal to buy a new house, you’ll need goals to make sure your finances are in order, to save for it, to hunt for the house, to pack to move, ect. And you aren’t going to pack before you find the house, so you will have a timeline in which to do things. 

Scrabble tiles on a white table that says pause, rest, but never give up.

Track your progress

The third major breakdown area in goal setting is failing to track your progress. You have a great goal and a detailed plan, the next step is to have a system in place to evaluate if your plan is working or if you are even following your plan. All plans require that you follow them in order to create any value and most likely they will also need course corrections. Once you start on your plan, you will likely discover new information that you didn’t know before and your plan will need to be updated.

On a wooden wall are a bunch of sticky notes. They say set goal, make plan, get to wrk, stick to it, reach goal, smiley face

Goal setting needs accountability

Lastly, the final major area of breakdown is not having an outside means of accountability. Something that checks up on you to verify you are making progress towards your goal. This could be an accountability buddy, a challenge, or perhaps an app. If you are looking for help reaching your accountability goals, check out our Facebook page for daily accountability in reaching your goals.

A woman is holding a journal on her raised knees and writing in it.

A system for goal setting

Now that we know the major areas where goal setting breaks down, what is the biggest trap of goal setting? Simply put, it is not having a system in place that ensures you follow through on all the critical steps of goal setting. The good news is, once you set up your system, you can use it for all your goals.

This system could be writing down your goals in a journal or a planner. Perhaps you check in with an accountability partner every day. A visual representation of the steps could be helpful as well.

On a desk sits a journal with an old fashioned key and reading glasses on it. To the right of the journal is a cloth napkin with a mug of coffee on it.

Consistency is key

First, your system needs to consistently remind you of your goal. Many goals are abandoned because they were put off so many times, that thinking about them only reminds you of all the time that has been wasted. Having your goal “in your face” will help you to achieve it. This can be done with a marker board that has your goals written on it, a vision board, or even sticky notes on your bathroom mirror.

Track your progress for goal success

Second, your system needs to track your progress. This enables you to make course corrections. Not only will it ensure you arrive at your goal, but it also provides motivation by revealing all the progress you are making. As soon as I started tracking my weight loss in a spreadsheet and saw how much fat was melting off every week, I knew there were no other options than to keep going until I reached my goal! As you see your goal being successful, you will be even more motivated to keep going.


Finally, your system needs an OUTSIDE means of accountability. Something that checks up on you to make sure you have a clear target, you are following your plan, tracking your progress, and making the needed course corrections.

Avoid the biggest trap of goal setting! Develop a system that will guarantee you will follow through, no matter the goal, no matter the obstacle. Your goals are waiting and success is sure to be yours.

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