Why Goal-Setting is Ineffective & How to Make it Effective

There’s something I keep repeating: Get clear on your goals to achieve what you want.


It sounds easy but have your found yourself asking: How exactly do I do that?




Have you been in a situation where you thought you were clear, achieved your goal but didn’t actually feel you got what you wanted? That somehow something was missing or not quite right?


I can relate. I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned and the process I use now.


A few years ago, I achieved what I wanted: working on women’s rights and facilitating conversations to bridge gaps and transform conflict.


It was because I had named what I thought was a clear goal. And this led to creating a plan and executing the actions to make it a reality.


What I didn’t realize was that the goal wasn’t specific enough! While it seemed obvious, it also wasn’t clear why I wanted to achieve this goal. And this lack of specificity and clarity mattered.


So, I had achieved my goal but I hadn’t done the work to ensure that when I did this I’d feel satisfied. Instead I achieved the goal and experienced being:


  • harassed and bullied
  • under-paid
  • discriminated against
  • over-worked
  • exhausted and anxious


This was the consequence of not being specific or clear when goal-setting.


As a result, I had an inadequate plan that didn’t have the right actions to help me achieve my goal in way that was truly fulfilling.


Once I noticed that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, after I thought I had been specific about my goal, I changed my process.


And this process – which I’m about to share with you – resulted in me achieving the following:


  • Doing the work I love: Coaching and training people, especially women, on how to use tools to transform conflict and lead empowered, resilient lives; 
  • Creating and implementing a sustainable schedule;
  • Less anxiety and more time dedicated to health and wellness;
  • Working with individual and organizational clients with similar values;
  • Feeling respected and valued by these clients;
  • Earning an income that made me feel valued for the effort, experience and results I deliver.


So What’s the Process?


The process is answering a series of prompts and then following through with consistant action.


Here’s what I continually use to set achievable goals:


  • Name the result I want.
  • Respond to the question: Why?
  • Name the other reasons I’ve set this goal.
  • Identify barriers to achieving it.
  • List actions to overcome them.
  • Make a plan and execute it.


Here are some tips to help you get the most out this exercise.


Be Specific


When you name your goal, the more specific you are, the more strategic you will be with the time and effort needed to achieve it. You will avoid thinking: Why am I doing this again? Or Why exactly am I taking this action? How will it help me achieve my goal?


Here’s an example on how to be specific. Not specific: I want to find a new job. Specific: I want to work on the rights of women refugees in accessing health care.


Name Your Motivation


When you respond to why you are focused on your goal take the time to name what the underlying reason is for your motivation. This clarity will give you that extra energy you will need to persevere. 


Here’s an example: I want to work on the rights of women refugees in accessing health care because I’ve seen the consequences. I want them to thrive – not just survive. 


Name It to Claim It.


When you list the other reasons you’re setting this goal, be honest. Ditch the inner critic’s voice or the judgment you imagine from others. For example, if you’re goal is looking for work, in addition to wanting to support women refugees, you may also want to: have a pay increase; leave a toxic work environment; have a supervisor who makes you feel acknowledged for your work and effort; not work 15 to 17 hours a day.


Name It and Address It.


Trying to achieve a goal without getting clear of what challenges may arise is setting yourself up for frustration and making it more difficult to follow-through. Instead, name the barriers you know of, learn about the ones you don’t know of and then name how you will address it. Doing this work in advance will help you be ready to deal with the challenge when it comes up. Just naming barriers may be enough to take steps to avoid them completely!


Book It and Execute It.


In addition to booking time and taking actions to meet your goal, book time and take actions to address the barriers.


It’s through this comprehensive engagement, supported by consistently taking actions, that you will achieve your goal. It’s also through this process that you shift from auto-pilot thinking (e.g. “I’ll just do this and it should get me to where I want to go.”) to being aware enough to course-correct as and when needed.


So, you’ve got a new process to achieve your goals effectively. You can do this! Here’s to your future success!



P.S. Need more help?


Coaching Support:

I can coach you on how to reach your career goals and self-advocate effectively. Learn about my coaching services here.


Free Resources:

Sign-up to my e-mail list. You instantly get my free Guide on How to Feel Present, Clear & Resilient! Use the guide to help you make life and career decisions from a place of clarity instead of confusion! Sign-up here!