7 Ways You Sabotage Your Goals (E20)

goal setting mistakes
Do you sabotage your goals?

Goals and self-sabotage

Hello, and welcome to episode 20 of the Men’s Self-Help Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. John Moore and I’m a licensed psychotherapist out of Chicago, Illinois and I’ve been involved with counseling for the better part of fifteen years.

In addition to the work that I do as a counselor, I also teach college courses in psychology and business with a lot of my students being working adults and midcareer professionals.

You know, I started this podcast because I wanted to extend the walls of my practice and reach out to three specific groups of men who might be interested in hearing from someone like me, a counselor, about topics related to health and wellness.

The first group are guys who are curious about psychology and emotional health and typically gravitate towards this kind of material.

Group two are men who may have been recently diagnosed with something – perhaps depression or anxiety – a trauma – and they want to tune in and see what they can relate to.

And then there is this third group. These are men who are never going to knock on the door of someone like me, a therapist, to talk about what’s going on in their lives … but, they might be interested enough to tap on an app, listen to a show and see what might apply to their lives.

And hey, I recognize that it’s not just guys who listen to this show. Yep, that’s right, women tune in too because they want to gain new insights into the male psyche.

Regardless of who you are or what brought you here today, I want you to know that I’m super glad you are here.

With that said, let’s move on to today’s topic: 7 goal setting mistakes that hold you back from success.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “How can you make a mistake with goal setting? Isn’t the process pretty easy? You just set the goal and start doing the work to reach it, right?”

Haha – man do I wish that were the case. In truth, the process of goal setting and goal attainment is a lot more complicated than that. So, we’re going to explore this topic in detail and help you figure out some smarter approaches.

We’re also going to talk about this week’s listener email – a note from a guy who wants to know if hypnosis can help him with anxiety.

Well, there you have it – lots of topics for today’s program. I’m really glad you are here.

Sabotaging Goals: A Closer Look

So, one of the main reasons guys come in for counseling and coaching is to help them reach goals. Examples include the desire to earn a college degree or to lose weight. Other examples include saving more money or building a skill.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When a guy picks up the phone to call a counselor about this issue, they’ve usually reached a place of utter frustration.

In other words, in the past, they’ve tried hard to reach their goals, only to end up getting derailed or failing. Does this sound familiar?

And so rather than do some generic show on “How To Reach Your Goals,” I thought it would be more useful to explore common mistakes people make as part of the goal attainment process.

In creating this podcast, I called on the resources of Dr. AJ Struges. He penned an article for my website, Guy Counseling.com and shared 7 goal setting mistakes that hold people back from success. I’ve placed a link in show notes for you to check out.

I’m walk through each of his points and add my own thoughts as part of the dynamic. Well, there’s no time like the present so let’s jump right in.

1. The goal is too big

In many ways, this makes sense. When we set goals that are too large, too soon, we set ourselves up for failure. Let me give you an example.

Several years ago, a client of mine wanted to create an emergency savings account. His goal was to save up roughly $10,000 in cash over a six-month period.

The problem with his goal was that it was too aggressive. At the three-month mark, he realized he was barely 25% to goal. As a result, he got down on himself and ended up scrapping his goal entirely.

Had he allowed for the possibility of adjusting his goal, meaning revising his time frame to something more realistic, like a year, he would have been much happier.

2. The goal is too small

This point is the opposite of the first we discussed. Having a goal that is too small can also me a mistake because it fails to sufficiently motivate us.

This isn’t to say that small goals aren’t important. They are. But in my experience, it is sometimes best to think of small goals as “step” on the march towards a larger goal.

An example might be wanting to drop ten pounds. If your goal for the week is to avoid heavy carbs during lunch, that’s great. But is this really going to motivate you over the long haul.

All of this is to say that goals need to be realistic in nature and obtainable. By linking the small steps to the larger outcome of goal achievement, you are much more likely to be successful.

Food for thought.

3. The goal is too public

OK, so here is the deal on this point. While it’s great to get support around a goal from friends and family, it can sometimes be counterproductive to go public with a goal.

Here’s an example. Last year, a friend of mine announced on social media he was going to stop smoking. He shared his quit date on his feed of followers and in the process, got lots of accolades.

Problems happened, however, when he had a few slips several weeks into his quit. Too ashamed to admit the relapses to his followers, he kept giving the impression he was smoke-free when in truth, he wasn’t.

Ultimately, he got so disgusted with himself for lying to folks that he slipped back into his old ways and began full bore.

So, what’s the right approach here?

Simply put, share your goals with people who may be on the same journey as you. This way, when bumps on the road happen – and they always do – you’ll get the right type of support from the right people. Embarrassment will be far less likely as a result when slips happen and you’ll feel more attached to the process.

4. The goal is too private

I won’t spend a lot of time on this point except to say that it’s important to have some amount of support around your goal. This goes back to getting the right support from the right people.

To cut to the chase, don’t keep your goal to yourself. It’s all about that shared journey we discussed.

5. Confusing process vs. outcome goals

When you boil it all down, this point really is saying, How are you going to achieve your goal?

An example might be setting a goal of consistently working out five times a week. It’s great you want to do this but how are you going to make that happen?

Are you going to set your alarm to get up 2-hours earlier each morning? Are you going to try and go to bed earlier each night?

The main point here is that when you set a goal, it is critical to create the steps necessary for goal achievement.

To help you in this area, I am going to link in show notes to a handout from Therapist Aid. The document, which you can think of as a kind of homework assignment, can be used to identify the necessary steps you will need to take for reaching your goals. I use it with clients and highly recommend.

6. Not focusing on SMART Goals

This is a fairly straightforward point where the term itself is self-explanatory.

So, what are SMART goals. Well, here is the acronym along with some examples:

Specific: “I want to save $500.00 of spending money for vacation by June 1st” as opposed to “I want to save money for vacation”.

Measurable: This point is used for assessment. If your goal is to save money for vacation, are you tracking your progress regularly? If you are, what tools are you using to make this happen?

Agreed Upon: Is the goal worth your time? If it’s not, it may not be worth it. Check with your circle of support – the people who know you to check yourself.

Realistic: What are your realistic chances for achieving this goal? Are you setting yourself up for failure or success?

Time-bound: Do you have a date set to your goal? The more specific and realistic the better.

7. Not knowing why

This final point speaks to your motivation for wanting to achieve an identified goal. It’s great you want to drop ten pounds but why are you doing it?

Is it because your doctor told you too? Is it to become more attractive? Are you doing it simply to live a healthier life?

Knowing why you are working towards a goal can massively help you stay on track to goal attainment.

Here’s a tip. If your motivation is placed in pleasing somebody other than you, it’s less likely to succeed. In other words, people tend to be more committed to their goals when their reason for achieving them is internal.

Make sense?

Here are two closing questions: What’s your track record been with reaching goals. Given what we explored here, what could be different?

Does Hypnotherapy Work For Anxiety?

Our listener emails this week comes to us from a man who lives in Georgia. I’m just going to read you what he sent and then share my thoughts – along with what I wrote back.

Hi Doctor John,

I’ve listened to a few of your podcasts and thank you for making these available to people. My problem is probably one you may have talked about before, but I thought I’d ask anyway because I wanted to get your input.

I’m forty years old and struggle with anxiety. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I take medications for this and it helps on the margins. The issue for me is that it still causes problems in my life because I tend to worry about everything.

A friend of mine suggested that I consider hypnosis. I’ve given it some thought but there is a part of me who thinks it is a bunch of BS. But then I saw that you are a clinical hypnotherapist. So, my question to you is: Can hypnosis help people with my condition?


Boy, I’ll tell you. The question this listener asked is one that I get approached on all the time. The simple answer to his question is yes, hypnotherapy can – for some people – help folks struggling with different forms of anxiety – including generalized anxiety disorder.

Here is what I wrote back.

Hi, Mark,

First, thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I am glad to hear you are getting something out of the podcasts. It means a great deal to me.

Now, let’s talk about your question. It sounds like your psychiatrist believes you have GAD, otherwise known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’m going to include a link to a Psychology Today article that helps to provide background about what this mental health challenge is all about. You may already know this information but just in case you don’t, I thought sharing it with you may help to provide new insight.

Regarding hypnotherapy for Generalized Anxiety, I can tell you from first hand experience that hypnosis can be helpful. But here is the thing – hypnosis as a standalone approach probably isn’t going to get you to where you want to be.

Instead, taking your medications, along with regular talk-therapy, preferably with a CBT component that includes hypnotherapy is probably going to be more effective.

I’m not just saying this just to say it. The clinical research demonstrates through a myriad of studies that hypnosis works best when it is combined with other approaches as part of a comprehensive approach to anxiety reduction.

I am going to include a link to my website that has an article I penned on the 10 ways hypnosis helps with anxiety. In it, you will find several studies that support what I have mentioned here.

I am wondering if you are currently seeing a therapist. While it’s great that you are working with a psychiatrist, a lot of them seem to focus on prescribing medication and not so much on the counseling aspects. If you aren’t working with a therapist, I highly recommend you think about doing so. If you can find somebody who includes cognitive therapy, along with hypnosis, into their approach, even better.

I’m going to include a link here to the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. Hopefully, you will find someone who fits your needs.

Finally, I’ll just say hypnotherapy has been terribly stereotyped over the years by false representations in popular culture. Part of this is because people confuse stage hypnosis, which is a form of entertainment, with clinical hypnotherapy, which is used as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

At any rate, I am glad that you wrote. I hope you check back and let us know how things worked out.

So, there you have my response to Mark. Perhaps you have thought about hypnotherapy as a potential solution to your mental health challenges.

If so, I encourage you to learn all you can about what’s involved. To make things easier, I’m including a link to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. If you are curious about this approach to wellness, the material shared on their page should help to provide the answers that you seek.


Wow, we covered a lot in today’s podcast, didn’t we? Part of our time together was spent exploring goals and barriers to goal attainment. We also discussed anxiety and how hypnosis can be used as a tool for wellness.

You know, there are several ways to reach me. You can send me a confidential note at: john@guycounseling.com – You can also stop by one of my social media pages. There’s Facebook – just input Guy Counseling. There’s also Instagram – same handle.

If you do contact me, know that I won’t share anything you send without your permission. Know that I read everything I am sent and try to reply to everyone. It may take me a day or two to respond because I still work with clients each week out of my office – plus, I teach.

Thank you so much for taking the time today to listen to this show. I don’t have an audio engineer or podcast manager. What you hear is 100% me – glitches and all.

Keep reaching for your goals. Identify barriers that keep you from your full potential and find ways of working through. Take very good care. This has been another episode of the Men’s Self-Help Podcast.

About John D. Moore 391 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast