Dipo Adebayo
6 min readJan 15, 2023

The Wrong Way to Set Goals.

5 common mistakes to fix if you’re tired of not achieving your goals.

"Dipo, I’m done setting goals," said a friend "I’ve set goals time and time again, put in a lot of effort but failed to achieve them. Now, I’ll just take life one day at a time."

I’ll bet you’ve been there. You set a goal but didn’t achieve it. This happens again and again, and depression begins to set in, so to protect your mental health, you give up on setting goals or having expectations.

But what if the problem isn't with us or with setting goals but with how we set goals?

Here are 4 common problems with how we set goals:

Mistake #1- We set goals without clarifying why we want them.

We need to question why we want the things we want. Why do I want to get married or have kids at this particular time? Why do I want a master’s degree or make X income at Y time?

As you do this, don't give yourself surface answers, dig inside to really understand your motives.

You may realize that you want certain things, not because you really want those things, but because that's what someone you respect, your peers, or popular culture says is acceptable.

Or you may realize that it's not really that thing you want but something that it will bring you.

For example, you may want to become a professor but when you search your motives, you may realize you don't actually enjoy the extensive academic labour or research it requires, instead what you really want is the prestige of being called "Prof".

If we set goals we don't really want, we may not have a strong desire to accomplish them, because achieving goals requires passion and a sense of purpose.

Even if we do achieve these goals, we won't be happy because we never really wanted them, rather we only wanted something associated with them or we wanted to please someone.

When we have clarified why we want our goals, we need to periodically reevaluate if we still want them, because we change, and the things we wanted last year may not be the things we want today and there's no point still going after a goal we don't want anymore.

2- We set goals without setting habits.

Achieving goals often require habit. To achieve the goal of passing an exam with distinction requires the habit of studying frequently. Achieving a goal of financial freedom requires a habit of practicing principles of wealth creation.

Achieving goals often requires imbibing the habits they require.

If I set a goal to double my income, I should also set a habit of maybe doubling or tripling my daily sales calls/emails, and generally increase my sales efforts.

The goal isn’t just to make X amount of money but to become someone who has developed financial habits that sustains a certain level of income

Or if I set a goal to lose 10kg in say 6 months, I should also set a goal to become a person who exercises and eats healthy every day, not only when I feel like it or when it feels good, every day.

The goal isn't to lose 10kg and then stop exercising or eating healthy when I've achieved my goal, if I do that, I may quickly regain the weight I struggled to lose. The goal is to become a person who has adopted the lifestyle (daily habits and routines) needed to achieve and sustain a healthy body.

To achieve our goals, we should focus not only on the desired result but also on the habits to achieve that goal and sustain it.

And a good way to sustain habits is by having someone hold us accountable to keeping them

P.S. I learned this 2nd point on Habits from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits and the 3-2-1 newsletter often reputed as the most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web. He gives sound advice on habits, goals, productivity, decision making and continuous improvement. You can sign up to his insights here: https://jamesclear.com/3-2-1/refer?rh_ref=8d3c3f71

3- We set goals and forget some things are beyond our control:

You may set a goal to work for Google before you’re 40. What if despite your best efforts, Google doesn’t accept you?

Or you may set a goal to get married before you’re 30. What if you don’t meet the right person?

Let’s face it. Some things are beyond our control. We do our best at what we can control and leave what we can’t control to God, and trust that He has a plan that’s bigger and far better than our goals and desires.

4- We set goals and base our self-worth on their achievement

While it's great to set goals to be in the University by 16 years old, get a job by 22 get married by 25-30, be done having kids by 35, make a million dollars or more by 40, and have grandkids by 55, don't tie your self-worth and happiness to your achievement of these goals.

If you don’t achieve these things when you planned to, that doesn’t make you any less worthy than those who did, and it may not necessarily mean you didn’t do certain things right. Stop regretting or comparing yourself to others in an unhealthy way. Read this: The Great Thief of Joy

5. We do not set SMART Goals: This is super important. Smart goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. For more on smart goals and how to write a smart goal, read this beautiful article: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/how-to-write-smart-goals

As you write your goals for the year, answer these 5 questions:

1. What are your goals & Why do you want them?

2. What daily habits do they require and who will hold you accountable for keeping those habits?

3. What part of achieving them isn’t in your control and will you trust God has better plans if you don’t achieve them?

4. Will you feel less confident or worthy if you don’t achieve them?

5. Are they SMART Goals?

You may be thinking: now I know how not to achieve goals, how about how to achieve them?

Read this- The easily omitted factor that determines if you achieve your goals: https://link.medium.com/cFBrHUE0Lwb

And this— Forget about setting goals, focus on this instead: https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems

Do you have a goal you’ve been dreaming of but you can’t find the motivation or boldness to start? Read this

Fight for your dreams: https://medium.com/storymaker/your-dreams-are-worth-fighting-for-be313907ef8f

The true story of Tom Clancy: https://jamesclear.com/reinvent-yourself

Do you fear leaving your comfort zone to pursue your dreams? Read This: https://link.medium.com/Hma8CZmVLwb

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Hi, I’m Dipo. I teach 7 softskills everyone needs. One of those skills is effective communication: I help people communicate clearly, confidently, and persuasively, either it’s a presentation, public speaking or one-to-one conversation.

I believe that good communication skill (in writing and speaking) is key to prosperity, influence, and having better relationships.

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Dipo Adebayo

I am a water engineer, softskills coach, writer & teen counselor. I write on hope and rising above shame, rejection, fear & failure. Follow on IG @dipoadebayo