3 Myths About Goal Setting That Are Throwing You Off Before You Begin

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: December 27, 2019
Always Look Forward

There has been so much written about setting goals. If you Google “goal-setting,” you’ll be presented with 372 million results. (In contrast, if you search for “laziness,” you’ll only get 24.9 million results.)

Many great minds have examined this topic, so why are we still struggling so much with how to do this effectively? 

It’s because widely held misconceptions about goal setting prevent many people from even getting started. Once you bust through these common fallacies and demystify the process, you’ll take the pressure off yourself and start to see movement toward your goals.

Related: 14 Quotes to Inspire You to Reach Even Your Most Impossible Goals

Myth 1: The goal is the destination.

With phrases floating around like, What’s your end goal? I can see why people get hung up on this one. However, goals are not the destination.

Oftentimes, when people don’t hit their target, they get frustrated because things didn’t go the way they thought it should go, and they give up. They think they just don’t have what it takes, when all they needed to do was recalibrate. 

Let’s say you’re setting out on a trip with a friend, and you punch the specific address into your GPS. Your objective is to arrive at that destination. Along the way, there might be an accident. There might be a change in weather. You might have to reroute to get to the destination.

In business, this could mean you spend more, people don’t return your calls, or the contract doesn’t always come through.

These are all just detours and obstacles for you to circumnavigate on the way to your goal. Goals are not set in stone; They are meant to guide you in a general direction. Sometimes you don’t achieve your goal, and that’s OK. What matters is that you’re making progress.

Myth 2: Goals are fixed once they’re written down.

This one paralyzes people more than anything else I see. If you don’t know specifically what title you want, where you want to live or how much money you should save, you put off setting a goal because you’re not ready to write it down. 

We know from research that you are infinitely more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down. The great news? No one ever said you couldn’t revise it. You should consider any goal-setting document as a working draft. Just get started. 

If you’re really struggling to set goals, simply zoom out and start with: What difference can I make today in my business or in my life? 

The most valuable resources that anyone has are time, energy and brilliance. You want to use your time, energy and brilliance to get the best outcome or result. What does that look like in your specific context?

Myth 3: I need to wait until I can apply a particular framework perfectly.

When you go to seminars or read books on goal setting, the person tells you to follow an exact formula. But when you follow the exact formula, it doesn’t work out the way it was sold to you. This is because you’re a different person, in a different place in the world, with your own set of variables.

For instance, you might live in California, but the person who told you to implement XYZ lives in Wyoming! Well, it is a different community, a different economy, and a different environment.

The solution? Study the best of the best. As you study their steps for success, ask for yourself: 

  • What makes the most sense to me? 
  • What can I do? 
  • Where might I need to pivot?
  • How can I make this more congruent with what I’m trying to do?

Determine your destination, learn from the best of the best, and then choose how fast and how far you will go in following the wisdom of others. You’ll be well on your way to achieving success in no time.


Now that we’ve debunked the myths, here’s how you can get started on setting your 2020 goals:

Begin with the eight core areas of your life: 

  1. Spiritual 
  2. Health/Well-Being
  3. Family
  4. Financial
  5. Business/Career
  6. Education
  7. Emotional 
  8. Social/Friends

Next, look at the next 25 years and break it down into five-year increments. Within that five-year increment, decide: What am I doing within each 12 to 18 months to reach my goal?

Then, inside each of those goals there are three to five specific behaviors or habits you should implement to move yourself forward. For example, under health/well-being, if you want to lose 15 pounds, are you drinking the right amount of water? Cutting out fried food? Going for a daily walk?

Last, reward yourself monthly, and then get back on your regimen. Rewards will help give you the energy to keep going long term—you just want to make sure you get back to it after you’re done celebrating.

Goal setting will never happen until you are convinced that this is what you really, really, really want. What you want, wants you. If you don’t want it, you’re not going to go after it.

So, how badly do you want it?

Related: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Image by LeoWolfert/Shutterstock.com

Simon T. Bailey is an international speaker, writer and personal transformation strategist. He is the author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., and Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. When he’s not working, he enjoys rooting for the Buffalo Bills (his hometown team).