Feb. 11, 2020

How NOT to Set Goals

How NOT to Set Goals

Courtney Elmer, host of Systems Made Simple™ Podcast, helps online business owners work smarter not harder. Inside this episode you'll learn how to set smart goals you can actually achieve.

Have you ever experienced the disappointment of setting a goal in life you didn’t hit? 

Unfortunately, most people are going about setting goals the wrong way. Worse, they don’t realize it, which is why they keep winding up with none of the results they want.

The average New Year’s Resolution lasts a mere twelve days. So why is it that most people want to achieve their goals in life, but few actually do? 

Inside today’s episode, I’ll show you the shocking reason why most smart goals go unmet. HINT: It has nothing to do with the goals themselves, and everything to do with the way you’re setting them. 


  • How to avoid the common pitfalls that keep most people from achieving their goals in life

  • Why you should ditch the out-dated SMART goal setting method and replace it with these two essential action steps instead

  • The 5 Questions you must ask yourself before goal setting

  • How to remove any potential roadblocks that stand in the way

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.





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© Copyright 2022 | The EffortLESS Life®


You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode #4! 

Have you ever wondered why most people want to achieve big goals in life, but few actually succeed? 

At the time of this recording, we just flipped the calendar into a New Year. But did you know the average New Year’s Resolution lasts a mere twelve days?! It's because what’s simple isn’t always easy. There are a lot of philosophies out there on smart goal setting, but too much conflicting information. Besides, if hitting your goals was as simple as setting them … wouldn’t you have achieved them all by now? 

Knowing how to set smart goals is just one piece of the puzzle. And today, I’m going to reveal the other key pieces you need to make them your reality. 

If you feel like your business growth has been one step forward and two steps back despite how hard you’re working … you’re not alone. See, most people enter this cycle: 

  1. Try something new. 
  2. Choose to feel overwhelmed about it. 
  3. Give up.
  4. Repeat.

They set smart goals in life, they don’t hit them, they beat themselves up about it, and then give up. Then, they reach a point where they’re frustrated with their status quo, so they set new smart goals in life, and repeat the cycle. It’s a frustrating place to be, isn’t it? Want to know how to break this cycle? 

  1. Try something new.
  2. Feel overwhelmed about it.
  3. Recognize that feeling overwhelmed is a choice.
  4. Shift your focus to choose a different feeling
  5. Make some progress
  6. Make some mistakes and have the courage to keep going
  7. Surprise yourself with the fact that you are making progress
  8. Build confidence & repeat


It’s simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. 

Before launching the company I have today, I spent years as a workaholic. I thought “working harder” was the only way to be successful, but it seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I wasn't making progress. I thought I was doing everything the experts said I needed to do to succeed when it came to smart goal setting. But still, I wasn’t hitting my targets in the time frame I wanted. I’d beat myself up about it, making it mean all kinds of things about me that it didn’t really mean, like “My business is doomed and I’m a failure.” 

What I didn’t realize was that I wouldn’t succeed with that mindset.

If you’ve ever experienced the disappointment of setting goals in life and not achieving them, it can lead to a strong inward resistance to setting goals. This is especially true for ambitious entrepreneurs who make the mistake like I did of thinking that the reason they’re not hitting them is because they’re somehow incapable of doing so.

Then, there’s all the conflicting smart goal setting methods to contend with. You hear some people say “set huge goals! Who cares if you don’t hit them, just reset and try again!” Then others say “Don’t overshoot and set goals that aren’t realistic, because you’ll just set yourself up for failure.” 

What do most people do? They start throwing goals out “to the Universe” like they mean nothing, thinking “If I just speak it into existence, it’ll happen!”

We keep lists of things we want to accomplish, like...

  • Workout more
  • Drink more water
  • Get in bed by 9pm
  • Get 8 hours of sleep
  • Make 5 figures this month
  • Make 6 figures this year
  • Hit 7 figures next year
  • Eat healthier
  • Spend 1 hour of quality time with my kids each day after school
  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning
  • No screen time after 8pm
  • Schedule more time off
  • Start that new backyard project
  • Read more books

… on and on. 

But what usually happens? You say you’ll go workout, then find yourself watching Netflix. Or you might say you want to invest in yourself, but you put off starting (or finishing) that course you bought, or scrolling Instagram instead of reading a book before bed. 

It’s one thing to set an intention and say what you want, but simply crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not a smart goal setting method. That’s a big mistake, and it comes at a cost.

Setting goals has a psychological ramification: if you’re attached to the outcome, then of course you’ll feel terrible about yourself when you don’t hit them. Yet if you set small goals, you risk playing it too safe and never reaching the next level. 

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t right? Not exactly.

When you implement the smart goal setting framework I’m going to give you, it’s going to make hitting them feel easy and effortless. 

Before we get to the framework, here’s the critical piece about smart goal setting that you must understand: you have to detach yourself from the outcome. In other words, whether you hit the goal or not, it means nothing about you. As humans, your brain is wired for survival and to make sense of the world, so when situations or events happen, your brain assigns meaning to the outcomes in your life to try and make sense of it. When you’re not aware this is happening, you may unknowingly make these outcomes mean something about you that it doesn't actually mean.

Here’s a concrete example: imagine that you’ve set a goal to make $25,000 next month. Now, this is a bigger goal in life than you’ve ever set, and you feel nervous setting it because you aren’t sure if it’s possible. But you’re hopeful that by simply following some smart goal setting method that it’s going to happen. And you’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes. You’ve laid out the plan and you’re taking all the action steps you’re supposed to, but as it gets closer to your deadline, you start to doubt you’ll hit it. And in the end, you missed the mark by a few thousand dollars. A flood of disappointment washes over you. Now, pause right here and notice how you feel with me simply describing this situation. 

Do you feel defeated? Discouraged? Like a failure? Do you beat yourself up for not hitting it, and tell yourself you could have done more, and question every move you made? 

Let’s unpack what’s going on here.

If you’ve ever felt like this because you haven’t hit a goal you set, you’re assigning meaning to an outcome that isn’t actually there. Results are just results. Whether you hit the goal or not, it doesn’t mean anything about YOU as a person. You’re not a success if you hit it or a failure if you don’t. The results you get are information. They’re data points that help you know what action steps to adjust so you increase your chances of hitting it next time. 

Think of football here for a second. If a play doesn’t go like the team planned and they don’t score a touchdown, they don’t move the end zone. They adjust the play. 

Smart goal setting is just like playing football. You don’t adjust the goal, you simply change the play. 

Unfortunately what most people do is the opposite: they change the goal, and execute the same play. The problem with this is that there was nothing wrong with the goal in life you set… the problem is with the play itself. 

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are the method you’re currently using for smart goal setting is broken. Let me reiterate: you’re not broken, your method is! 

You’ve probably heard about SMART goals, right? It’s an acronym. Where “SMART” stands for different qualities or characteristics that the goal should have. 

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Actionable 

R = Realistic 

T = Timed

This is a good start. But after setting hundreds, maybe thousands of goals over the years, I've realized this method falls short because it’s missing two critical elements.

There’s smart goal setting… and there’s real smart goal setting. So instead of the traditional SMART goal setting method most people use, I want you to follow this formula instead:

REAL smart goals are:

  • Simple 
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Meaningful for you
  • Present
  • Positive

I don’t have a good acronym for this one other than SSMMPP, so write these down somewhere! REAL smart goals are:

  • SIMPLE: What’s doable for one person might not be the same for someone else based on where you are in your journey.

  • SPECIFIC: Your brain needs clear orders and a clear visual of what you want. Instead of saying “to increase my revenue” state how much you want to increase your revenue by (i.e., “to increase my revenue by $50,000 this year). Asking questions like “how or what specifically?” will help. 

  • MEASURABLE: You can’t build that which you don’t measure. You've got to set benchmarks for yourself, and in a moment I’ll show you how.

  • MEANINGFUL: Too many people chase feelings when setting goals in life. They chase feelings of accomplishment, pride, or feeling recognized and affirmed. But goals are not feelings! You can’t measure success based on feelings. And setting goals in life because you’re telling yourself you “need to” or “have to” won’t keep you motivated. 

  • PRESENT: Write your goals in the present tense, as if they’re happening now. This is a way to supercharge your brain and help bring your conscious and subconscious into alignment, which will make it easier to achieve the goals in life you set.

  • Have a POSITIVE FOCUS: Too often, you unknowingly focus on what you don’t want… i.e., “I don’t want to go out of business... I don’t want to fail... etc.” What most people don’t realize is that your brain can only process positive language. So instead of stating “I want to achieve X revenue this year because I don’t want to be in debt anymore”, you can say “I want to achieve X revenue this year so I can get one step closer to my desire for financial freedom.” Say it the way you WANT it.

Now that you understand this, the magic can start to happen. In a moment I’m going to give you a simple framework you can use for smart goal setting anytime you want to set a goal in life. When you use this real smart goal setting framework, you’ll automatically incorporate each step I mentioned above for setting goals in life.

First, ask yourself these three questions: 

  1. What do I want?
  2. When do I want to achieve this goal?
  3. Why is this goal in life important to me?

Once you have your answers, plug those into the following smart goal setting framework: 

IT IS [date you want to achieve your goal] AND I, [your name], HAVE [adjective to describe the way in which you want to achieve the goal, i.e., easily, effortlessly, confidently…] ACHIEVED [state your specific goal]. 

I’LL KNOW I’VE ACHIEVED THIS WHEN [specific, measurable benchmark that confirms you’ve achieved it].

That last piece about the measurable benchmark: you have to define what has to happen so you know, without a doubt, that you hit that goal in life. The more tangible it is, the better. Maybe you want to attend a conference and you know you’ve achieved that when you’ve booked your plane ticket, or when you’re sitting in the front row at the event. Maybe you want to get healthier. How will you know when you’ve achieved that goal in life? When you’ve lost 10 lbs? When you can do 10 bicep curls with a 10lb weight? When you can fit into a certain clothing size? 

Ok so now you’ve got it set, and you start taking action steps… but what about when you slip up? Like when you say you want to work out 4x a week, but then hit snooze and push that workout to the next day, and the next? Or you say you want to read more, but when you climb into bed at night, your book sits unopened on your nightstand and instead you’re in bed scrolling through Instagram? 

This is typically an indicator that you’re not emotionally connected to your goal in life. NOTE: This is different from being attached to the outcome. 

Having an emotional connection to WHY that goal in life is important to you is a critical element most people miss. Goals have to be meaningful for you, otherwise there’ll be no reason to stay motivated when life happens and the going gets tough. 

Why are you setting this goal in life? If it’s a weight loss goal, it’s not really about the numbers on the scale is it? That might be a way you measure your progress, but it’s not so much about the number as it is about the energy you’ll have when you hit that target weight, or the confidence you’ll feel when you see yourself in the mirror, and what will that energy or that confidence make possible in your life, right? This is key. 

In order to dramatically increase the chances of hitting the goals in life you set, you’ve got to stay emotionally connected to your goals. NOT emotionally attached to the outcome, but emotionally connected to why you’re going after this goal in life to begin with. 

Use this smart goal setting framework to set goals in life in every area. Commit to this practice, and watch your life change. Imagine where you'll be 12 months from today if you simply commit to this process and keep going. 

Running a successful business is a skill anyone can develop, but one thing that causes most entrepreneurs to struggle is failing to create a CLEAR plan to hit their goals. So now that you’ve identified at least one goal in life you want to hit for yourself, it’s time to get the edge you need to succeed. Go to courtneyelmer.com/goals and download the cheat sheet I have for you there, where you'll discover 2 more bonus questions you must ask before setting any goal in life, so you can get crystal clear on the exact steps to take in order to make any smart goal your reality. You’ll also unlock a powerful visualization exercise that will help you emotionally connect to the reason why these smart goals in life are important to you, which will help keep you motivated when the going gets tough. So head to courtneyelmer.com/goals and get instant access to these free resources I’ve created for you to help you in your smart goal setting journey. 

In the meantime, if you’ve got a question you’d like to ask me, I hang out on Instagram @theeffortlesslife.co . Send me a DM, I always look forward to hearing from listeners like you. I’ll see you back here next week on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast -- until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®!