Inner Whispers

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Inner Whispers

Top 5 Goal Setting Mistakes and What to Do About Them

GoalSettingMistakes - HeadInHandWorking as a life coach, many people say to me that they get stressed out by having too many goals.  Or by setting goals that they never achieve, leaving them feeling frustrated and like a failure.  And if your goal is world peace or even something more personal like not losing your temper over Christmas, it’s easy to see why you might struggle.

Often times people set themselves up for failure. That could be because the goal is not something you have control over. Or it could be that the goal is too nebulous, or just too big. You might also not have the right resources available to help you achieve your goals. Or you might be conflicted about the goal at some level and stop yourself through procrastination and/or self sabotage.

So let’s look at the top 5 goal setting mistakes people make:

1: Your goal isn’t clear enough

It’s nearly impossible to achieve a goal if you don’t know exactly what it is you’re trying to do.  Knowing why you’re doing it is helpful, too!

One part of this is framing the goal in the positive.  Instead of saying, ‘I won’t lose my temper over Christmas,’ you could say ‘I will stay calm over Christmas.’  When you phrase things in the negative, you can get stuck responding to things: your mother/father/partner making an inappropriate comment, for instance.  When you phrase things in the positive, you focus on what you can control: meditating to keep calm, anchoring helpful resources, and making plans to help you avoid unpleasant situations.

GoalSettingMistakes - Oops2: Your goal isn’t within your control

World peace is not something that a single person can make happen (though of course you can contribute your drop to the ocean of the world).  Make sure that you pick a goal that you do have control over.  Returning to the example of staying calm over Christmas, you can’t control what other people say and do.  However, you can control your own responses (sometimes with some effort, lol).

3: You keep moving the goalposts

This is related to knowing what you want to achieve.  If you start out with wanting to stay calm for Christmas, it might be a good idea to set sub-goals within that.  For instance, you could set a goal of meditating more.  However, you might then meditate five minutes a day, not feel it’s enough, and feel like you’ve failed because you weren’t meditating ten minutes a day, or enough so that you are the ultimate zen buddha.  If you set a clear goal, like meditating for five minutes a day, celebrate achieving your goal.  Sure, you can then up the ante, but first acknowledge your own achievement!

4: You don’t have the resources you need for success

Achieving a goal often requires resources.  These can be money, sure, but they can also be inner resources, or even the help of other people.  Whatever you need to reach a goal, you need to plan for how to access those resources, as well as for the goal itself.  Back to our calm Christmas, if you’ve never meditated, and you don’t know how to anchor resource states, and no-one is willing to give you some time off, or knows that you need it, then it may be pretty tough.  If you can plan ahead and get help, whether from a coach, from someone in your household, or just from Youtube tutorials, you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving your goal.

Goal Setting Mistakes - StopSelfSabotage5: You sabotage yourself

This is a biggie!  Often, for many different reasons, people sabotage their own goals.

It may be that there is a secondary gain for you from a behaviour you’re trying to change.  For example, eating that cake may be the only way you feel you can “treat” yourself.  Or staying overweight may protect you from feeling like you have to do something that feels scary.  Another reason for self-sabotage is to support a belief you have, like “I don’t deserve success”.  And procrastination is an incredibly powerful tool for self-sabotage, undermining goals through inaction.

Dealing with self-sabotage is one area where I see magic working it’s, well, magic 😀

You can use a spell to change your beliefs at a deep level, or to help you overcome procrastination.  This is an area where change really does need to be made at a subconscious level.  No matter how much you know rationally that something doesn’t make sense, self-sabotage will continue to plague you until you nip it in the bud, and that means going deep!

Spells for procrastination or overcoming beliefs are something you really need to tailor to yourself.  However, for some of the other goal setting mistakes, there are simpler, more practical solutions.  One thing that can help when setting goals is to make sure your focus is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.  Thinking about that, I used this mnemonic as a tarot spread, drawing cards from the Gendron Tarot (US Games, 1997).

BF-Gendron-SMARTSprd1) What SPECIFICALLY do you want to achieve? – Eight of Pentacles

I was going to let the cards decide on my goal, and actually this card speaks to a couple of different goals I have at the moment.  Both require a lot of learning and practice.  And to be honest, both could do with me dedicating some serious time to them.  Which of course may be a bit of a problem, as there’s two of them, and other things going on in my life besides…

2) How can you MEASURE your progress? – Seven of Pentacles

An interesting and appropriate card to have in this position.  The Seven of Pentacles is often about taking a step back to assess where you are, and what you need to do next.  With the gardening metaphor, there is also the question of what fruit you are harvesting.

In terms of ways to measure my progress on these two goals, one will be assessed externally, but also requires me to consider how I am doing: reflecting emotionally, as suggested by the waterfall and pool in the background of this card.  The other is more likely to bear obvious fruits, that I can then take as representing the success of my goal.

BF-Gendron-SMARTSprd13) What will help make this goal ATTAINABLE? – Princess (Page) of Wands

How unusual, having a beaver next to the Princess of Wands.  This card is normally about enthusiasm, and a willingness to try new things.  The animal suggests beavering on, working hard at something and not getting distracted, which is probably something the Princess of Wands could do with some support on!

Overall, the message I get here is that so long as I can keep my enthusiasm, and a certain openness and curiosity, I will be fine.  And remembering that I need to carry on until I’ve finished, even if there is some hard work involved.  Hopefully, if I can keep my enthusiasm, the hard work will flow with reasonable ease…

4) How RELEVANT is this goal? – Princess (Page) of Cups

The Princess of Cups speaks of emotional openness and a willing to explore your feelings.  Once again, an unusual choice of animal to accompany her – it looks like a panther!

One of my goals is very relevant to the Princess of Cups, as it is a course that teaches a powerful way of exploring and dealing with emotions.  The other, not so much.  And perhaps that’s an indication that, if I need to prioritise my use of time, the second goal is not as relevant to me.  However, it does involve some stuff that needs to get done.  I wonder if I could find someone else to do it?

BF-Gendron-SMARTSprd25) In what way is this goal TIME-BOUND? – Seven of Wands

I’m not quite sure what to make of this version of the Seven of Wands!  A wall of wands that look like hands on the ends of super-elongated arms stands between a woman and a cathedral that seems to have been dropped in a forest glade.

I guess it could be seen as someone who needs to battle through to her goal.  And the cathedral makes me think of the Hierophant, sometimes associated with dogma or institutional learning.  Once again, that fits with the first goal: the course has a set end date, with an exam and an essay deadline.  The other goal is more open-ended.  Which is good if I’m going to put it second on my priority list.  However, it does encourage me to create my own timetable for it, as and when I or someone else take it on.  Otherwise, it may not get done, or not very efficiently.


If you have a goal, why not give this spread a go to help you check you’re well placed to achieve it? 🙂

If you want to read journal prompts based on these questions, click here.

2 Responses to “Top 5 Goal Setting Mistakes and What to Do About Them”

  • Great post Chloe!
    Self sabotage…. my main stumbling block
    The positive side is I am aware of it so there is ,an opportunity to change it: “to nip it in the bud” 😀
    I must say the Knight of Wands is great guide on this journey

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Ellen!
      And yes, I think self-sabotage is a really common problem. As you say, though, being aware of it is a great first step 🙂 And yes, again, the Knight of Wands is an excellent energy to get things moving!


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