#1 Goal Setting Mistake, and How to Fix It

A few years ago I spent New Year’s Eve like many revelers, eating and drinking to excess. We had gathered in South Florida at my friend Joel Marion’s home to celebrate.

The buffet spread was incredible. The cheese and nut plates were everywhere. The bar, well stocked with all the necessary ingredients to make one last end-of-year toast to good health. Fortunately I chose to overeat from the healthy options, filling (and refilling) my plate with delicious grass-fed beef tenderloin, roasted Brussel sprouts, and the biggest, juiciest shrimp that I’d ever had. But I could not stop at one, or three, or five. When the time came for the countdown, I was stuffed, so much so that it made for a poor sleep to start the New Year.

Now I could have started off the next morning off with regrets. But there was no point in that. What’s done is done. I forgive myself the mistakes of the past, and you must too. If you had a bad night, a rough week, or even a tough year, please, let it go. Let’s move on.

Take the lessons learned and apply them to better days ahead. If you’re anything like me, then you’re really excited about the fresh start that January, or even a Monday morning, offers. If you and I commit to doing the best we can, sticking to our plan and keep on moving positively in the direction of our goals, we will succeed. We will have another great year.

A great year starts with the right plan, but all too often our enthusiasm and ambition gets the better of us. We end up making a big mistake when setting goals for the year.  

Today you’re going find out how to avoid this mistake. To show you what I mean, we need to take a look at a conversation I had with one of my coaching clients, Blake, on the discussion forum of my weight loss membership site. Blake was sharing his plan for the year and he wrote a long post with dozens of big goals and dreams that he wanted to achieve.

I had to stop him right there and give him some Tough Love. His list was too long. It was a shotgun approach to success. He was trying to do too much. That’s the biggest mistake you can make with goal setting. Here’s what I wrote back to him.

“Blake, you have too many goals! You’re trying to make 3 years of changes in 3 months. If you don’t prune this plan, you are going to end up really frustrated. You might even quit on your most important goals.”

Years ago Mark Ford wrote an article about goal setting that changed my annual planning. I was once like Blake. In fact, I touted my lengthy goal list as a badge of honor, dismissing those that set only a page of goals. My list was five pages long, I’d brag. Months later, however, I would have made decent progress on only a few of the goals, and the remainder would be discarded. That’s where Mark’s article came along to show me the errors of my ways.

At the beginning of each year, I write down a single goal for the year in four areas of life: health, wealth, social, and personal. And I make each goal significant, yet specific,” Mark wrote.

That’s it. One specific goal for each of the four major categories in life. Not five pages, not even one full page of goals. Just four specific goals.

It was with this advice that success started coming fast and furious into my life. Instead of the shotgun approach, I now had a laser-like focus. I no longer suffered from the guilt of discarding goals months later after realizing no progress had been made – nor would any be made.

Investment expert and author of True Wealth, Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, also experienced a breakthrough when following Mark’s advice. Sjuggerud wrote, “The biggest thing that setting these four goals did for me was it focused my energies for the year. Instead of pursuing all kinds of different things (as I usually would), I focused on accomplishing four specific things… things that I’d thought a lot about and decided were important to me. I strongly urge you to do what I’m doing… to take a good amount of time and write down what you really want to accomplish in 2015. Set one goal in each of these four areas: 1) Your health; 2) Your wealth; 3) Your personal self (hobbies and interests); 4) Your social self (friends, family, and community); And remember to make sure that each goal is significant, yet specific.”

Following this step alone will fix the number one mistake you’ve made with goal setting in the past. But there’s one more step to take that will bring you results even faster. I call it the 4×3 System for Success.

Part 1: Identify the 4 specific goals based on Mark’s categories

Part 2: List the 3 most important action steps that you can take for each goal in the next 21 days.

Part 3: Recruit an accountability partner. Each day you must report on your action steps to your partner.

That’s it. That’s how you fix your New Year’s Resolutions.

Focus on the 3 Actions you can take for just 4 BIG goals and report on your progress to 1 Partner.

Breaking down your goal into smaller sub goals or objectives makes goal setting more manageable, and this is an important strategy in how to set goals the right way. For example, if you want to write a book within a year the goal to ”write a book in one year” can feel massive. It’s easier to break that goal down into monthly and weekly goals, so your monthly goal might be to finish chapter one, while your daily goal might be to write one page per day. All of a sudden it feels a lot more manageable.

Don’t try and accomplish 101 things in 2015. You won’t have the focus you need to succeed on what really matters. Step back, cut your list down to the most important items, and dominate.

It’s a simple, but effective system for accomplishing more in life.

For example, let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds in the next 21 days. It’s entirely possible, particularly if you overindulged repeatedly over the holidays.

That’s your #1 health goal. Here are your 3 most important action steps:

1) Follow The BEST fat loss program in the world

2) Stick to your nutrition plan 90% of the time and plan for cheat meals 10% of the time to help you stay on track.

3) Get social support and accountability from 3 positive people in your life.

If you take those three steps every week, you will achieve your goals with a laser-like focus. You will banish the guilt that comes with discarded resolutions. You will change your body, and transform your life in just 21 days. Picture yourself losing those 10 pounds. Picture yourself on the beach during your spring break or summer holiday. Picture yourself fitting into your skinny clothes again – soon! Picture yourself having more energy to keep up with your kids. All of this is possible when you use our 4×3 system.

I’m happy to say that my full, bloated belly receded the next morning and I got back on track as quickly as possible. The rest went better than ever because I was focused thanks to Mark Ford’s advice, and I had cut the junk from my goal list and my diet. If you do the same, you’ll have your best year ever.

[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]