How Many Goals Should You Set


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Having a goal for your life and achieving it can be a powerful tool to make your life better, but there is a limit to how much of a good thing you can have. No matter if you’re setting a new year’s resolution or planning for the coming year, it’s important to take into account how many goals you are setting.

What number of goals should you set in a year? This number varies widely depending on the size and effort of the goals. It is recommended that you set between 3 and 5 goals per year, but of course this is not a hard and fast rule.

Here, we will go through the various dangers of goal setting with too many goals and help to work out how much is too much for you.

Dangers Of Too Many Goals

The University of Scranton found that only 8% of people actually achieve their goals for the year. The causes of these various failures can be endless, but setting too many especially big goals at once is likely to be one of them.

Burn Out

In reality, setting too many goals can lead to burnout and overwhelm, and when people feel overwhelmed, they tend to revert back to old, comforting, and unproductive habits.

Managing Setbacks

Research on financial goals has revealed that people who face temporary setbacks are more likely to make more serious financial mistakes.

Sacrificing Values

A person might sacrifice other priorities in their life in order to attain an impossible amount of goals. Research from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business indicates that people’s performance-related goals often force them to commit unethical practices in order to attain them or to appear as if they have achieved them.

However, most studies show that setting too many goals may hinder your success, but you should also set some important goals.

Additionally, it is strongly suggested to have different specific goals for differing specific aspects of your life. For example, you should have goals for your health, your career, and so on. While some goals can take a long time to achieve, it can be very motivating to see you are still able to achieve others in the meantime.

Setting The Ideal Number Of Goals In A Year

You should not set a specific number of goals every year. This depends on many factors, including:

  • What is your commitment to your goals? When you already have a ton going on in your day-to-day life, it might be wise to set fewer goals to avoid getting overwhelmed.
  • What importance do those goals have to you? It might be worthwhile to set more goals if your current goals are truly important to you.
  • What is your goal size? Failure comes when you try to accomplish several big goals at once. Setting one big goal at a time is best.
  • To reach each goal, how much effort is required? The time commitment required to accomplish some of these goals may be greater than others and you may only need to prioritize one of these a year.
  • How do you handle setbacks? Of course, setbacks are inevitable, but how you deal with them makes a huge difference. Focus on only a few goals at one time, and sharpen your mindset. 

How Many For Each Type Of Goal

There are many types of goals and many of them tend to overlap. Let’s break down what types you’re setting, along with how many of each type would be realistic.

There will be times when you see overlap in these types of goals. The differentiation serves only as a guide. Identify your goals in whichever way works the best for you, using these broad guidelines.

Goals To Overhaul Your Lifestyle

Your life may undergo permanent, lasting changes if you achieve goals such as losing weight, saving money, or changing careers.  Make sure to limit the number of these kinds of goals you set at once.

Please remember that if you plan on setting such goals, it would be better to focus on underlying healthy and optimum habits you need to develop in order to achieve them.

The “Lifestyle Overhaul” goals typically involve introducing multiple habits successfully. These can often be challenging to attain and then maintain over time. 

Single-Area Goals

They usually relate to just one area type of a life with little cross-overs. Single area goals normally do not involve any drastic life changes and are usually quite narrow in scope. A few examples of what your goals might be:

  • Health – Running thrice a week or consuming a smoothie every morning. 
  • Finances – Expense tracking of your expenses. 
  • Family and Relationships – You can make regular phone calls to your friends or go on dates with your partner per month.
  • Personal Development – Every day spend 10 minutes reading a book.
  • Spirituality – Taking 10 minutes every morning to meditate.
  • Career – 
  • Building up a new skill by taking one online course every 6 months or so.
  • Home Improvement – Sprucing up your home office.

Try not to set too many single-area-focused goals as well, unless they’re all very small. Focus on the 2-3 areas you’re most concerned with.

Goals That Are Habit-Orientated 

Habit-oriented goals don’t have a finish line. Their very nature excludes this outcome, but if you’re successful, these goals will show themselves to be powerful ways to enhance your life. Examples of habit-oriented goals include:

  • A good night’s sleep every night
  • Taking better care of yourself
  • Being able to spend more time with your family
  • Building your strength

Too many habit-driven goals will often result in failure, but a new habit can take just two months to happen. You could change three or four habits a year if you stagger the start date.

Completable Goals

A goal that can be completed is one that has a deadline, one that is finished once it is achieved. You could also consider these “projects” rather than goals, but that’s semantics. Below are some examples of a goals you may be able to complete:

  • Save $1,000 into your bank account.
  • Re-paint your house.
  • Declutter and deep clean your whole house.

Despite the fact that these goals are great, and achieving them will give you a great boost, some think they are really just a simple “task” or “action” that must be accomplished in order to achieve a larger goal. You can start building financial security by starting with a $1,000 emergency fund, for example. The $1,000 savings is only one piece of the bigger picture – a larger goal.

It doesn’t matter how many goals you set on your list. Simply keep in mind how much time and energy each task will take and compare it to how much time and energy you’ll need to put into it and if you have that energy and time to schedule the goal at the time.

Uncontrollable Outcomes And Goals

The truth is, there are some goals that we cannot control. For example, you may have a goal of getting promoted at your job, but if a company you happen to work for does not have a promotion for you to apply to, then you are out of luck – that goal is out of your control. 

You should set goals if the outcome is important, but setting too many idealized goals with outcomes you don’t control may result in disappointment.

To stay motivated, ensure you set some goals that are within your control.

Short Term Goals, Long Term Goals And Deadlines 

Short- and long-term objectives can have deadlines. Either way, these are generally attainable goals.

Long Term Goal Examples

  • Savings for the purchase of a house
  • Promotion at work
  • Acquiring a degree
  • Organizing a wedding

Short Term Goal Examples

  • Buying a car
  • Improve your education by attending a class 
  • Treating yourself to a vacation
  • Organizing a small event

Short-term goals differ from long-term goals primarily in scale. Short-term goals take less time to accomplish and are much simpler while long-term goals are broader and more complicated. A person can have a number of short-term goals that lead to a long-term goal.

One cannot advise how many short-term and long-term goals one should set. Basically, it depends on how important the goal is to you, how much energy and time it takes and how much time it takes.

Goals And Setting Too Many

You should not stress out if you set too many goals. It’s not the number that’s the issue, it’s how people react to various setbacks and feelings of being overwhelmed. You are not going to fail if you make a mistake — that’s part of the process. Take a deep breath and continue on!

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