How to Prevent the 6 Biggest Goal Setting Mistakes

If you’re tired of making New Years goals (and rarely achieving them), then read on.

First, I want to say that I feel your pain, because I’ve been in that boat over and over too.

In the past, when I set goals (and didn’t meet them) I quickly became jaded, cynical and apathetic.

It was so frustrating to have the desire to change, but to not be able to do it!

But the last few years I’ve found much more success in meeting New Year’s resolutions by simply avoiding these 6 huge (but common) goal-setting pitfalls.

Let’s talk about how you can avoid these mistakes too, and meet your goals this year!

TIRED OF MAKING NEW YEARS GOALS THAT DON'T WORK? You may be making these 6 big goal setting mistakes. I made them for a long time (especially #1)... I'm actually excited to set New Years resolutions now because I can finally meet my goals and feel successful (no more guilt)...


6 Big Mistakes in Making New Years Goals

Mistake #1: We try to accomplish our goals without God’s power and grace in every step of the process.

Making progress toward a goal without God’s power and grace is kind of like trying to scale a wall covered in mud (which I had to do once in a 10K mud run, but that’s another story).

My friend Arabah Joy shares in Grace Goals  (an excellent, Christian goal-setting course that I highly recommend) that God’s grace is not just an abstract concept that we call upon when we need forgiveness but instead a practical, powerful tool essential for successfully setting and completing goals.

She describes it this way in the Grace Goals course:  “Grace is the power of God. It is more than God’s forgiveness when we do wrong… it is God’s enablement to do right. Grace is what has the power to transform a person’s life.”

God’s grace and wisdom lights our path on the perilous road to accomplishing goals.

Chances are that we won’t take the exact path that we thought we would, and that we are going to have to make some tough decisions along the way. God’s grace is that power we can call upon to stay focused on the goal; and his wisdom allows us to adjust the course should things have changed.

Most of all God’s grace is our foundation through the changes. We aren’t ever, ever going to meet our goals perfectly, and we need that voice of truth telling us that, yes, we’re still 100 percent loved despite the outcome of our goal setting.

If you’ve been looking for a grace-centered, Bible-based way to meet your goals, check out Grace Goals here


Mistake #2: We don’t look back before we look forward.

What happened last year? What were the big lessons learned? How did the past year change us, for the worse or the better?

I think these are critical questions to ask before we embark on setting goals. It’s like that oft-quoted phrase: “if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it.”

In fact, whenever I’ve found success in meeting a goal, it’s always because I took the time to look back at what happened in the past before I try to tackle the future.

This is such a critical step because, as I’m setting goals for next year, I don’t want to carry any baggage from last year’s experiences. I’ve found that I’m able to get much more clarity about my future goals if I’ve already considered the lessons of last year.

Take a few moments to recall this year’s events (especially thinking through the harder moments) in before jumping into next year. And speaking of learning from the hard times…

Mistake #3: We can’t see the opportunities for success hidden in the trials and disappointments.

More often than not, what is the catalyst for great success? A difficult situation. I’m always reminding my kids of this truth.

Like it or not, God shows up (and shapes us) through life’s trials.

In the Bible, James 1:2-4 describes it this way:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I often find that God gives me the greatest opportunity for change when He puts me smack dab in the middle of a difficult situation. I’m given the choice of whether to respond in a more Christ-like manner (which will produce the change in habits I’m seeking); or to complain and respond poorly (completely squelching the God-given opportunity for change).

As you begin to work toward this year’s goals (especially those that involve a change in habits), look for the big change to come through your choices in the little moments.

Mistake #3: We view our goals as pass or fail.

Sometimes we get so narrow-minded in how we define “accomplishing” a goal. Is a goal only successful if it is fully met? We can let unrealistic expectations define our outcomes and thus shoot down any beautiful progress we have made.

I have been learning to celebrate all progress toward a goal and to be much more flexible with myself. It’s a happier way to set and achieve goals, friends!

If you struggle with this too, the Grace Goals course offers excellent tools to help you not only develop goals but to keep them realistic and in line with God’s plans for you.

Learn more about Grace Goals here.


Mistake #4: We mistakenly believe that every goal has an end point. 

Year after year, I find myself writing some of the same New Year’s goals.

You know, the ones like: Work out. Eat right. Spend more time with God.

I used to really beat myself up about that because I felt like “Haven’t I accomplished that goal yet?” Why do I have to write these year after year? The guilt monster used to settle in here too because, well, he loves to jump on any opportunity to show me how I could have done something better.

But the last few years I’ve taken a different perspective on these long-term goals. I consider them “maintenance goals” that will always need to be a part of my life.

And instead of beating myself up for having to (still) work in these areas, I keep them on my resolution list but do three things:

  • celebrate the great changes I’ve seen,
  • notice the areas where I may have slipped and;
  • specifically determine how I need to grow in these areas for my current life season.

Mistake #5: We compare our progress toward a goal with that of others’ progress toward their goals.

This is something God has been speaking to me about loud and clear the last few months. This summer, I saw the comparison monster move into my heart and snatch up my joy in huge handfuls. Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s an awful pit for sure and definitely stifles our growth toward a goal.

I discovered this thought recently and it has brought so much freedom:

“It’s not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you were yesterday.” (Unknown)

Am I better than I was yesterday? If the answer is yes, then that is enough! And if others are or are not accomplishing their goals, it doesn’t matter. Am I making progress? That’s the ultimate question!

Life changing, right?

A Great Tool for Setting New Years Goals

Grace Goals CourseI shared throughout the post about Grace Goals that is a perfect accompaniment to all that we’ve been discussing here about successfully establishing New Years goals.

Consisting of 5 mini workshops, this downloadable, 48-page resource is a unique hybrid of a Bible study and a goal-setting course.

I love how this course guides us through five steps of setting and implementing a goal while using Scriptural truths and biblical stories as inspiration! What a wonderful idea!

As a course participant, you will:

  • Learn why grace is the enablement you need to meet your goals
  • Begin to recognize and appropriate grace in your daily life
  • Set practical, godly goals
  • Be confident of God’s favor and power in your endeavors
  • Develop a doable, personal plan for change

Grace Goals Course

At the end of each mini workshop, participants put the principles into practice and slowly work through the process of setting and accomplishing goals.

Grace Goals offers relevant information and then the opportunity to immediately apply that knowledge to each person’s individual situation through hands-on work.

You’ll also get access to a private Facebook group where you can share goals, find an accountability partner, and be encouraged.

Arabah is personable, compassionate and full of wisdom as she guides us through the Grace Goals course. I’d highly recommend it to anyone!

Check it out!


More Resources for Goal Setting:

The Secret to Successfully Meeting Your New Years Goals

4 Ways That Acceptance with Joy Will Change Your Life Today

How to Help Your Kids Reach Their Dreams This Year

Top 25 Posts (Perfect for Your New Year’s Inspiration)


About Alicia Michelle

As a wife and mom to four passionate kids, Alicia Michelle loves encouraging other moms with practical tips for joy-filled living in everyday life, especially in parenting, marriage, faith and health.Alicia is the owner/editor of Your Vibrant Family; the author of Plan to Be Flexible, The Back to School Survival Manual; and the creator/producer of the "7 Days to a Less Angry Mom Online Video Course,", Christ-Centered Christmas Resources and My Memory Box Organizing System. In addition, she is a monthly contributor for several popular family blogs, including her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Leave a Reply 16 comments

Healing Mama - December 11, 2015 Reply

This list gave me a new perspective on goal setting. I have to save this, because it’s going to provide a lot of encouragement in the future!

    Alicia Michelle - December 11, 2015 Reply

    I’m so glad to hear this! I agree–putting this post together has given me a new exciting focus on how to set goals. I’m so glad it blessed you! Thanks for sharing.

Denise - December 12, 2015 Reply

Thanks for linking up to Home Matters Party. #HomeMattersParty!

hannah@seeingthelovely - December 12, 2015 Reply

You are so right, Alicia! One of the hardest things about setting goals is remembering to look back first! I sometimes forget to really evaluate what worked and what didn’t with my goals, and I paid for it later! Thanks for the great tips!

    Alicia Michelle - December 14, 2015 Reply

    Yes, Hannah, it’d totally agree! It’s so much easier to just plow forward and not intentionally consider what big lessons we learned from the last year. I’m glad you enjoyed the tips! Happy New Year to you!

Mother of 3 - December 22, 2015 Reply

I had given up on making any resolutions but I like the idea of progression not perfection.. hard to do when I’m a perfectionist.

    Alicia Michelle - December 23, 2015 Reply

    Oh yes… how I can relate to the battle with perfectionism! I really think the progress not perfection concept can set us free to grow without the pass/fail constraints we put on ourselves as perfectionists.

Sandy Sandmeyer - December 24, 2015 Reply

Thank you so much for setting my mind towards the coming year and for sharing your New Year’s goal making steps at the Over the Moon Link Party. Merry Christmas!

    Alicia Michelle - December 24, 2015 Reply

    Thank you, Sandy, for sharing your thoughts and for stopping by! Best wishes to you in the New Year!

Lisa notes - December 15, 2016 Reply

Mistake #3 stands out especially to me: “We view our goals as pass or fail.” That’s a great point. Not everything is all yes or all no, black or white. There are shades of succeed within our goal, and any progress can be counted as a win. Thanks for sharing these!

    Alicia Michelle - December 21, 2016 Reply

    For sure. I struggled with that for a long, long time. God has had to do a lot of work in me to where I can finally celebrate my little wins. You’re right–not everything is black or white when we’re setting goals! The real question is, “Are we making progress?”

Brooke Grangard - December 16, 2016 Reply

Thanks for this post! It’s good to be reminded that we can celebrate working towards our goals and not view them as just a pass or fail. Thanks!

    Alicia Michelle - December 21, 2016 Reply

    Yes! No pass/fail here! Growth is a great thing, no matter how small it is! Thank you for sharing!

Tips and Tricks Link Party - Fearlessly Creative Mammas - December 19, 2016 Reply

[…] How to Prevent the 6 Biggest Goal Setting Mistakes from Your Vibrant Family […]

Seana Turner - December 26, 2016 Reply

Great point about the “pass/fail” mentality. So many lessons can be learned when things go in a direction other than what we had planned. These are the experiences that lead to wisdom. We really can’t avoid pitfalls, even if we never try to do anything. Better to embrace the journey and stay humble as we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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