Dangers of Goal Setting for Women

How do you know if you have experienced and fallen prey to any of the dangers of goal setting? As an ambitious and busy woman, I have no doubt that you’ve fallen into a few of the following goal setting traps at one point or another. Here are some of the goal setting pitfalls to watch out for.

1. The Achievement Addiction

Have your goal setting efforts turned into an achievement addiction? Are you pursuing and working on your goals 24/7, without taking a break? The danger here is that you end up avoiding other important parts of your life including your health, relationships or leisure time. One danger of goal setting for women is when they cut themselves off from the people whom they are closet with. Women’s healthy relationships are a key element of their positive identity, and when they start isolating themselves from others for prolonged periods of times, they can feel depressed or irritable, or as though something is lacking in their lives.

2. Spiritual Starvation

Another danger of goal setting is that if you go overboard with achieving your goals, then you can experience a sense of spiritual void or starvation, or a sense of emptiness or loss of meaning and purpose in your life. This is interesting because isn’t goal setting supposed to be about increasing meaning and purpose in our lives? If you are filling every last minute and hour of your days or weeks with achieving your goals, and you’re feeling as though something is missing, then you should double check how much down time you’re giving to yourself.

3. Identity Confusion

One pitfall of goal setting gone too far is that women begin to base their identity on the results they are achieving through their goals. All women have goals that they are really serious about, and when something interferes or blocks the achievement of those goals, they are at risk for feeling down, ill, or unhappy. For example, a woman who’s goal is to have children, but cannot meet a partner or who cannot physically have children may suffer when her sole identity has been built on this picture of herself building a family. Likewise, the woman who invested her entire life only into her relationship with her partner and not her career can suffer when she experiences the transition of going through a divorce. The key is to have goals in various areas of our lives that we focus on – not just one area of our lives.

4. Goal Setting Failure

When we repeatedly try to achieve a goal or various goals, and we fail to reach those goals we are at risk for experiencing “failure”. This in turn can lead to a drastic drop in our self-confidence, or even our self-esteem (how much we like ourselves). Be aware of this goal setting pitfall. Have you noticed a difference in how you feel about yourself just because you haven’t achieved a goal that was important to you? If so, perhaps you should check how realistic your goal is. Are you expecting your goal to be achieved in too short of a time line? Do you have the right team of people in place? Are you basing your identity, pride, happiness and life satisfaction on the achievement of this goal? If so, you’re making a mistake, because there is always a chance that we might not achieve some of our goals. Remember, goals are meant to enhance our lives and our happiness, not detract from it.


5. Goal Setting Idolatry

Another drawback to goal setting is that sometimes we pursue a goal for the sake of the goal itself (idolatry), when in actuality that goal might not be important to us or congruent with our life values. For instance, sometimes a person sets a goal of making a certain amount of money, and you see them pursuing all these random business ideas that are not even aligned with who they are. I fell prey to this goal setting trap before. I wanted to make a lot of money and I had chosen real estate as the primary channel to pursue this goal. While there is nothing wrong with this, it eventually began to feel meaningless, and as if I was chasing an end result. While there was nothing wrong with my goal to make a lot of money, the means by which I was pursuing this goal wasn’t the most ideal. Another example of this would be a person who sets a goal to run 5k every day. If you ask them why they’re doing that, they might respond by telling you that their goal is to lose 10 pounds. But what if they get a knee injury? You might see them continue to run each day because they are so committed to losing those 10 pounds. However, if they were smart they would change their approach to achieving their weight loss goal. They are getting the ‘means’ of achieving their goal confused with the result that they are after. Stay attached to your outcome and the result that you are seeking, but be flexible in the means, approach or the ‘how’ behind your goal. Don’t just pursue a goal for its own sake. Ask yourself, “Why am I pursuing this goal?” “Is this goal still meaningful?” “Is there a better way to achieve this goal”?

6. The Goal Setting Marathon Lifestyle

After too marathoning on our goals for too long without taking a break, we are prone to goal setting burnout and stress. All big goals are likely to give us some stress, or even a lot of stress for short periods of time but if your experience of stress becomes prolonged over too many weeks, months or years, then your physical and psychological health is going to be in trouble. When was the last time you de-stressed and took a break from all your goals? I know I’m guilty of not taking breaks myself, and sometimes I pay the price. If you don’t keep your goal setting efforts in check then you will eventually feel as though you are exploiting your mind, energy and time. So, avoid the goal setting marathon way of living. It’s not healthy!

7. Overly Ambitious Approach

Are you setting too many goals and trying to achieve them all at once? While I’m all for capturing your many dreams and goals on paper, I’m not a big fan of trying to achieve them all at once. Some women go bonkers with trying to do, be and achieve everything all at once. What kind of lifestyle is that, and how are you supposed to enjoy yourself? Watch out for this goal setting trap.

These are some of the dangers of goal setting. Be aware of these goal setting pitfalls and traps so that you can take preventative measures to ensure that goal setting enhances your quality of life as opposed to decreasing it. For more resources and theory of goal setting click here.

Barriers to Women’s Goal Setting

There are three important goal setting barriers that women must overcome if they want to be a goal setting star! Here they are:

1. Women’s Goal Setting and Perfectionism Don’t Mix

Women’s goal setting requires that women overcome their need for perfectionism. Being a perfectionist and achieving big goals do not go hand in hand. In order to achieve big goals, women must let go of their need to be perfect. There are many pressures put on women today, – to have a great career, a family, to look sexy, and to please other people. I know I’m being stereotypical, but these are just a few of the pressures that women face and need to overcome in order to focus full heartedly on their goals.

For women’s goal setting to be successful, it is important to become aware of how perfectionistic attitudes might be holding us back.  Remember, your action steps and results need not be perfect! Just as our families, relationships, careers and bodies are not perfect, neither will the results of our goals or action steps be perfect. Get rid of the belief that things need to be perfect. There is no such thing. The key is to get your goals started, continue moving forward and don’t allow your less than favourable results to hold you back from taking further actions.

2. Don’t Allow Juggling to Distract You From Your Goals

Secondly, women are known to juggle many balls in the air – children, relationships, husbands, careers, care-giving, etc.  Women’s goal setting requires that you drop the Super Star mentality because you can’t have everything all at once. The key is aim for some balance, and to take small steps with your goals consistently over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your dreams be achieved that way either. Start small. Can you find 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even a half hour to get started or to keep going? Your actions need not be significant, but they must be consistent. Take small steps and trust that you can move forward. In no time, you’ll build momentum. Just wait and see!

3. Women’s Goal Setting Requires Time for You!

Thirdly, women naturally face the barrier of taking time for themselves and their goals because they feel guilty. They focus so much on playing the martyr and looking after everyone else instead of themselves. Don’t feel guilty about giving yourself time to pursue your own goals. Historically, women’s identities have been constructed based on who they are in relation to others, and sometimes albeit on an unconscious level, we tend to still base our identity on external expectations and role/relational obligations.

Even as an independent women, I still find myself getting sucked into this mindset as well at times. I too have felt guilty for pursuing my own dreams, but in the end it is worth the effort. Everyone else around you will be happier in the end when you are happy as well, accomplishing your own big goals.

Those are just three of the barriers to women’s goal setting. Stay tuned for more, and I also invite you to leave your own comments as well!