In recent years I have found myself refraining from diving into anything. These days I find myself more of a 'put my toe in and check the temperature sort of guy'.
My SEO thinking is along similar lines Place my toe in gently, observe the results and if all seems well put a bit more in (maybe a whole foot) . I am a great believer in feedback, I am always a little wary of the unknown, picking out keywords, setting targets and simply dropping into the swirling unknown waters is far too brave for me.
I like the concept of evolution. I have seen webmasters adopt the 'God' mode - This is where in total isolation of reality they decide all the fine details of the small web world they will create, then they jump in and create the vision that has been created inside their head, without as much at a glance at reality I shall remain a 'toe in first' type of guy.
I do like the concept of setting goals and in that respect I agree with you. My goals always seem to be in far smaller splashes. . I would be more inclined to research on the water temperature first . . My first task would be to select the warmest waters. (where I wont get frozen stiff by the competition) I would search for a place that was shallow enough to keep a toe resting on the ocean bed (A topic where I could wade and not get pummeled by huge incoming waves of massive competition.
Anywhere in the serps would be my initial 'toe in' In a few months time when I have perfected my doggy paddle. . . I might just dip my head beneath the waves, just to see if I am swimming safely.
We cannot all be fearless and brave...........