4 Don’ts When Setting Goals

When she was just 9 years old, Madison Harrison announced to her family that she wanted to take a photo of then-President Barack Obama. Her parents initially laughed at the idea. How was a kid going to get access to the commander in chief? It was a cute dream, they thought. Just a few months later, after a few strings were pulled, Madison was invited to a conference where Obama was speaking. Her mother beamed with pride as her daughter snapped the photo she’ll never forget. Madison went on to photograph Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as well.

The more I watch kids, the more I want to be setting goals like them. Ever notice how kids use the word “can’t” less often than adults do? Filled with confidence, they have no reason to believe they can’t be an astronaut or play shortstop for the Yankees. They expect it to happen. Adults are the ones who tend to set more attainable—dare I say boring—goals. I hate that. Let’s pledge to be more like kids, who set incredible goals and chase them down without fear. Here are 4 don’ts when setting goals.

1. Don’t dwell on roadblocks.

We are good at analyzing all the possible outcomes of our decisions, which means we tend to identify roadblocks before they even appear. In a way, it’s good to prepare for hazards that can derail our dreams. They will exist, and we must find solutions. The problem when setting goals comes when we start to dwell on “what ifs.” What if we run out of funding? What if we lose community support? Those would be major roadblocks if they materialize, but choosing not to set a lofty goal based on “what ifs” means you’ll stall out before you start.

2. Don’t drown in the fear of criticism.

Some criticisms are vindictive. Some are valid. It’s important to learn the difference. Proverbs 13:18 lays it out plainly, saying, “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.” This wisdom encourages us not to run from criticism but to analyze it instead. When we are setting goals, we shouldn’t fear possible criticism. Choose to let that criticism inform you, not cripple you.

Setting goals that others find crazy helps you never quit dreaming.

3. Don’t worry about setbacks.

A cousin of mine set a goal to complete in an Ironman race, but during training, he took a nasty spill on his bike. He got horrible road rash and had to pause his workouts just a month before the event. I called to encourage him and was pleasantly surprised to hear he was still determined to compete. He rested, recovered, and wound up completing the Ironman. Would his time have been better had he not suffered the setback? Possibly. Don’t look at setbacks as ditches. Rather, treat them like speedbumps, slowing you down for a short while before continuing toward your goal.

4. Don’t stop dreaming.

Michael Block captured the hearts of golf fans around the world during the 2023 PGA Championship. He earns a living giving swing lessons at a course in California but got the chance to compete in the major championship on the PGA Tour. In Cinderella fashion, he sank a hole-in-one on the 15th hole while grouped with Rory McIlroy on Sunday. He made a putt on No. 18 to win nearly $300,000 and earn a spot in the following year’s event. He’d dreamed of that moment his entire life, and it finally happened. After the final round, he said, “It’s not going to get better than this.” He told reporters he’d envisioned that moment for decades. Setting goals that others find crazy helps you never quit dreaming.

Sound off: “What is a goal that you set too low or have been putting off altogether?”

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it’s important to set goals? What goals would you like to accomplish?”