If you’re having trouble achieving goals that matter to you, it might not have anything to do with your work ethic. The trouble might be with the goals themselves.
Here are five potential goal pitfalls and how to avoid them.
1. You haven’t identified your goals.
Sometimes hard workers get so engrossed in the effort that they’re not sure where they want that work to take them. Not everything in your life needs to have a goal attached to it. But you have to know where you’re headed to get where you want to go. Start by actually writing your goals down and describing them clearly.
2. Your goals are too nebulous.
Goals need to be specific if you’re going to set a plan and hold yourself accountable for reaching them. “Get better grades” is a worthwhile outcome, but it’s not specific enough to work towards. “Improve my grades in science and math,” “Improve my batting average to higher than .300,” or “Secure a solo for at least one recital this semester” are specific goals you can work towards.
3. Your goals are too grandiose.
Ambition is a valuable trait, and there’s nothing wrong with aiming high. But there’s a point at which you bypass a lofty goal and move into the realm of fantasy. And that’s just another way to let yourself off the hook. Here’s a good litmus test to make sure you aren’t making this mistake: If you can’t describe a detailed plan to reach your goal, you’re probably edging into grandiosity, which brings me to…
4. You don’t have a plan to reach them.
The most important ingredient in any goal-worthy pursuit is a detailed plan to achieve it. What exactly do you need to do? What are the obstacles? How will you know if you’re making progress? Crafting a detailed plan makes you accountable. You won’t be able to pretend that you’re moving forward unless you’re actually doing what you planned to do each day, week, or month. Start with the end goal in mind (see #1), but don’t forget your detailed directions to get there.
5. You don’t have enough help.
Nobody succeeds alone. Even the most determined of us needs others to help us achieve our dreams. Don’t forge ahead on a solo quest. Maybe you need guidance from your counselor, instruction from a tutor, or support from family and friends. Decide ahead of time who you’ll need in your corner to help you. As long as you’ve earned the help before you ask for it, people who care about you will want to do what they can to help you succeed.