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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Beattie

5 Biggest Goal-Setting Mistakes from an Occupational Therapy Perspective

Updated: May 6, 2021

1. The goal is too general

2. The goal is too ambitious (or involves multiple goals)

3. The goal can’t be measured

4. The goal doesn’t have a timeline

5. The goal isn’t meaningful to you

Let’s break this down a bit!


If the goal you set is too general it makes it march harder to chip away at and feel productive.

  • e.g. “I want to read more “vs. “I want to read 1 new novel this month”.


You can do it all, but do yourself a favour and try not to do it all at once. If you start with a really big goal that takes forever to achieve, you will likely lose motivation along the way. Start small to make sure you can achieve the goal (we all need to feel successful!) and then grow the goal over time.

  • e.g. I want to read a new book each week (ok maybe some of you would actually do this but if you haven’t been reading at all and then expect to go from nothing to 1 per week, the goal might be too big to start with).

  • e.g. I want to run a marathon (maybe start with a 10km race or a half-marathon and then once you've accomplished that create a new and bigger goal).


It's important to be able to check in with your progress and know how close you are to achieving the end goal or know when you've actually achieved it.

  • e.g. I want to eat healthier VS. "I want to eat plant-based recipes twice per week".


An open-ended goal without a set deadline is far less motivating. Writing the goal down with the timeline can help keep you accountable. It's good to half a half-way check in with your goal as well to see if you're on track.

  • e.g. I want to walk 5km VS. "By the end of May I will be able to walk 5km 1x/week (halfway), and by the end of June I will walk 5km 3x/week (end goal).


You need to define your "why". What motivated you to set this goal? Setting a goal based on other people won't keep you motivated in the long run.

  • e.g. Exercise in the gym 3x/week because that worked for my friend.

Maybe the gym setting isn’t for you; it’s best to get to the root of the goal. Was the motivation behind it to increase your tolerance for hiking so you can photograph that mountain top without having to call North Shore Rescue? Find activities that you actually enjoy that will help you work towards that goal.

  • e.g. Short term goal: Go for a walk on a trail for 45 minutes 3x/week and bring a camera to take photos along the way.

If you are recovering from an injury or illness and are struggling to achieve your goals or don't even know where to start when it comes to setting a goal, contact one of our Occupational Therapists. Client-specific Goal Setting is at the heart of everything we do. If you have been involved in a car accident and have ICBC coverage you can access free Occupational therapy services.

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