3 common mistakes to avoid when setting goals in 2023

by | Jan 17, 2023

Can you believe we’re in the third week of 2023 already? How are you doing with your goals?

Health and wellness seems to be a major New Year Goal for most people this year. According to the latest poll, 49% of people ages 26 to 41 reported that improving their mental health is a top goal for them. This is followed by:

  • Weight loss (36%)
  • Improve fitness (34%)
  • Improve finance (34%)
  • Improve diet (33%)
  • And make more time for loved ones (18%)

I love that we’re starting to focus more on our health, specially our mental health, and have still kept our professional and relationship goals too! This is great in my opinion.

The problem is that studies suggest only 8-12% of us are successful at meeting our New Year’s Goals (Statista, 2018; Pienta, 2011). About 80% of us appear to fail within the first 30 days.

So to set yourself up for success in reaching your wellness and professional goals in 2023, we are going to cover 3 of the most mistakes we make when setting our New Year Goals.

These are some of the most common and overlooked mistakes people make in their goal journey. So we’re going to cover what they are so that you can avoid them and have the best chances of success.

You are truly amazing and capable of meeting your goals. I know this because I used to be part of the group that failed to meet my goals. I’d set my New Year’s Goals and in the first month I’d fall off track. I would paint this amazing picture of what my new year would look like in January, only to feel frustrated and disappointed with myself because I’d fall back to old habits…

But in the past few years, I’ve truly mastered setting New Year’s Goals (and any long-term goal really) the right way. After working at the psychology labs at the Rotman School of Management and at the Goal Pursuit Lab at Carleton University, not to mention testing things out in my own life, I’ve learned where I went wrong and learned to fix it.

I’ve learned that setting and meeting your goals is a skill that you can learn. And I want to share those learnings with you.

So here it is.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting New Years Goals

1) Not having the right prerequisite

Having the right prerequisites really translates to Not writing down your goals. This might seem obvious when it comes to meeting your goals, but it’s interestingly not common practice.

Do you know how powerful and impactful writing your goals down truly is? It is not something you want to skip or take lightly.

The findings from a famous Harvard Business study can help put this part of goal setting into perspective with some really interesting results. The study found that:

  • 83% did not set goals
  • 14% had a plan in mind, but were unwritten goals
  • 3% had goals written down

Do you want to know the difference between the groups?

  • The 14% who have a plan and a goal in mind were 10x more successful than those without goals. This suggests that many people are holding themselves back in their life because they are simply not setting goals.
  • The 3% that wrote their goals down were 3x more successful in meeting their goals compared to the 14%, who did not write their goals down.

Overall this means, to give yourself the best chances at having the things you want is to write down your goals.

2) Not following the SMART system

The SMART system is the recipe for setting great goals. It makes them much more clear and easier to achieve. The SMART system stands for having your goal be “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound”. Go back to your goals and make sure you have this in place. Here’s a breakdown on how you can make your goals follow the SMART system:

Step 1. Pick your top 3 goals

Pick no more than 3 big goals for the year. More than this can be overwhelming. It’s recommended that you choose goals in different domains of your life.

Ex: 1) Take better care of my health 2) Grow my business 3) Strengthen my relationships

Step 2. Clarify the specific goals within each category.

What does your goal look like exactly?

Ex: “go to the gym 3X a week” or “I want to double my income to X amount ” or “spend quality time with friends and family 2x a week”

Step 3. Indicate the actions required to reach each goal (there will likely be several).

What actions do you have to take for reach.

Ex: “sign up for the gym”, “create course for additional income”, “call Alicia to go on morning walk together” etc.

Step 4. Specify the time commitment needed to do each action/task

Ex: “30 minutes a day, 3 days a week at the gym”, “2 hours a week writing newsletters”, “1 minute calling Alicia to go on morning walk”

Step 5. Slot your actions into monthly increments

Ex: “30 minutes a day, 3 days a week at the gym = Jan-Dec”, “2 hours a week writing newsletters = March-June, “1 minute calling Alicia to go on morning walk = March-September”.

Step 6. Set a date and time for each action

Ex: “30 minutes a day, 3 days a week at the gym = Jan-Dec, Mon, Wed and Fri 8:00-8:30 am)”, “2 hours a week writing newsletters = March-June, Mondays at 6:00 pm”, “1 minute calling Alicia to go on morning walk = March-September, Tuesday and Thursdays)”.

Step 7. Schedule your plan into your calendar

You can use Google Calendar or equivalent to systemize your planning and get notifications. I also recommend using a paper planner for everyday use.

The SMART system allows you to set your goals the right way and increase your chances of success by providing more clarity in the goal you want to achieve and the process of meeting those goals.

3) Making the process more complicated and harder than it has to be

There is a huge misconception that the process of reaching your goals has to be complicated and painful. This is simply not true. This way of doing things only works against your success. If you think back to your own goals, you will likely see this for yourself.

Many of us over-complicate the process of meeting our goals which creates unnecessary obstacles. Take the easiest and most direct way possible. Specially to start, and specially with the goals that you are struggling with. This will increase the chances of you successfully following through and will help you avoid unnecessary problems like overwhelm. Go back to your goals (specially the more challenging ones!) and simplify your plan. The simpler you can make the process, the more likely you will achieve it.

The same is true for enjoying the process. This step has truly made all of the difference for me. This is my secret weapon to meeting my goals: I make them as enjoyable as possible. This, for example, means that if I’m setting a goal to exercise more, I pick a type of exercise that resonates more with me. Something that I naturally like doing more, like yoga or calisthenics. This means if I’m choosing to build my business and income, I do it in a way that makes the process enjoyable. I may do this by working with people that I really enjoy working with. Or it may be to choose to launch programs that I naturally enjoy more. Not only will enjoying the process help keep my motivation up, but it will also help with my mental health, energy, and chances for success.

Your challenge this January

Before the start of February, make sure that you set or revisit your New Years Goals to avoid the 3 common mistakes we covered in this blog.

Let me know how it goes by emailing me at info@leylabagheri.com. I can’t wait to hear about the progress you make!

With so much love,

Leyla Bagheri
Leyla Bagheri
Founder of LB Well-Being Performance Inc.
Well-Being and Performance Coach
Psychology Research Advisor

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