Goal setting is something that people often do whether that be through New Year’s resolutions or setting bigger goals for a longer period of time. And often you fail to meet those goals. Many people fail to achieve their goals, even if they’re really passionate about them.
So, why is it so difficult to achieve your goals?
When you’re struggling to achieve yours, it can seem that many other people are achieving their goals – especially in these days of ‘perfect’ social media posting – and that can, in itself, give you less motivation to keep going.
You probably wonder why you’re not doing the things that you have set out to do and why you fail to meet your goals. Why these things aren’t happening for you and why it’s so hard to keep going, and pushing towards those goals.
It’s probably not that you’re lazy. You’ve probably tried hard. You’ve probably put in lots of work in order to achieve the goals. You might have read books. You might have taken courses. You might have made lots of effort, but you still fail to meet your goals.
I Prefer a Vision and Milestones
I generally don’t work with goals. I work with a really strong vision of what I want my life or my business to look like in the future. And then I create a plan on how to get there, including milestones along the way.
I think those milestones are probably what other people would call goals or interim goals, and obviously the vision is the end goal, but I don’t tend to use that term. I think that’s probably a throwback to having been in corporate and spent years training people about creating SMART goals and, as a result, feeling jaded on that topic.
But, it doesn’t matter what you call what you’re aiming for and planning to do. It is important that you know what those things are. And I think that’s the key part – that you have some sort of view of what the future is going to be like and having a destination in mind when you set off, otherwise:
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never likely to get there
start with the end in mind7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
so that you can head in that general direction with your actions, one way or the other.
As we’ve said, people don’t always achieve their goals, even though they want to. They often voiced the fact that they’re going to do whatever it is they are planning, to themselves and often others. But what is it that stops people from achieving those goals?
I’m going to talk in this article about the seven common reasons why people fail to achieve goals that they set for themselves.
1. You Don’t Set Achievable Goals
Many of the manifestation and abundance coaches and people who talk out there about having what you want will tell you just to dream big and go for whatever it is you come up with.
As long as you’re not dreaming of something that’s impossible to achieve, that might work!
You should be setting goals that are challenging, so they’re not necessarily easy, but that are achievable in the timeframe you’ve given yourself. And how achievable they are will be different for each person and their circumstances.
Some people end up with goals that they’re supposedly aiming for that were actually set for them by other people.
A great example would be perhaps choosing a career because of parental pressure and striving, supposedly, for whatever that role is and actually not really wanting to do it. So, although it is an achievable goal. It’s not achievable for you, with the sort of mindset and wants and needs that you have and you often fail to meet your goals – ie other people’s goals!
So firstly, make sure that the goal is the right goal for you, and is therefore achievable for you.
2. You Choose Goals in the Negative
We often think of goals in negative ways. If you start with saying that you don’t want something, or you’re not going to be something or do something, then that immediately confuses the situation.
In the NLP world, you will be told that your subconscious can only work with the concept, that it doesn’t go for the nuance of whether something is positive or negative. For example, if we’re saying something like, we’re not going to be unhealthy, then the subconscious really just hears the word ‘unhealthy’ and it doesn’t hear the ‘not’ bit.
One example of that principle is something I always thought about when Little Doddsy was small. I’ve always heard that if you say, “Don’t spill it” when they’re carrying something, often they do end up spilling it because you’re telling their subconscious mind to spill it rather than the ‘don’t’ bit of it. I always used to be very aware of saying instead something like, “keep all the water in the glass” or similar, to turn it into that positive!
I’m not sure if I really believe that the subconscious doesn’t ‘understand’ a negative modifier but it certainly understands holding onto negative thoughts or else why would so many people not be where they want to be with stuff like ‘imposter syndrome’ getting in the way?
In terms of moving forwards and taking action though, stating the plan in the positive is much more helpful than the opposite. If you write positive statements, positive goals, positive visions and positive descriptions, of what you want in the future, then it’s much easier for your whole being to galvanise behind that goal or whatever we’re calling it to ensure that happens.
3. Your Vision or Goal Is Too Vague
Your vision or goal is too vague if you haven’t been specific about what it will look like when you get there, so that you know that you’re there. And it’s all wrapped up in the ‘is it achievable and how are you going to get there’ bit.
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reach out for big goals or big visions. What it does mean is that you need to get clearer, as clear as possible, on what it looks like and what it will be when you’re there. That gives you with your motivation and your direction. I like to call my biggest vision my North Star or it might be that ‘Purpose’ piece that was last week’s topic.
Your Purpose / your North Star is the thing that is drawing you in a particular direction. Your ‘smaller’ visions and goals and milestones (whatever you are calling them!) are the smaller stars in the same galaxy – just to extend the metaphor! Then you’ve got something that’s pulling you towards itself and it’s really clear – you can see it, you know what it means.
With vague goals that doesn’t work the same and you then fail to meet your goals.
So, get very specific, describe what it looks like in detail so that you know what you’re going for and also when you get there. It’s much easier to achieve clear, specific visions, goals and milestones than it is to achieve vague ideas.
4. You Don’t Write Down Your Goals
There are many stories about people who have written their goals down and then achieved them and other people who haven’t, and ‘therefore’ haven’t.
I don’t think it’s as a straightforward as that – that if you write your goals down, you’re guaranteed to achieve them and that if you don’t write those down that you’re not going to achieve them – but the process of actually writing a goal down, or a vision or any of the other words we’re using for the future achievement, forces you to think more clearly about what it is.
In order to write it down, you have to get more clarity and get really determined about what that’s going to look like, instead of it becoming a vague suggestion of what you might want to do in the future. Just the process of having to take something that’s in your head and turn it into something that makes a complete sentence and is ‘write-downable’ (is that a word?!) solidifies that intention.
Don’t underestimate the power of writing down your vision and reviewing it. That’s the other advantage to having written goals or visions, you will be able to look at them on a regular basis and assess how well you’re doing towards them and shift your path if you’re not going in the right direction.
Writing them down gives you the opportunity to check in consistently, knowing exactly what that intended direction is, where you are in relation to it, and then being able to see if there’s any changes that you need to make.
5. You Don’t Create the Right Environment to Achieve
If your office is too messy, or if your house is a tip, or if it’s too noisy or if there are too many people about (obviously pandemic allowing) that can affect your chances of achieving your goals.
It might also be about the people around you. You’ve probably heard the phrase about you being a combination of the five people you spend most time with. So, if those five people aren’t encouraging and aren’t helping you to move towards that vision, then you maybe need to either find five more people (not easy, I know!), or at least adjust your relationship with some of those people to give them less influence over your achievement of your goals.
And if you can’t adjust how you spend time with those people, think about how can you spend more time with yourself, learning and motivating yourself in order to achieve the things that you want to achieve and not fail to meet your goals.
What can you watch on YouTube? What can you watch on TED Talks? What books can you read? What podcasts can you listen to so that you’re surrounding yourself with more of the attitude that you need to achieve the things that you want to achieve.
So, be aware of your environment in terms of physical and mental.
6. You Don’t Measure Your Progress
We’ve already talked about the problem of not knowing if you’ve reached your goal when it’s not clear what it is. The other big problem is caused by not measuring your progress. You need to be adjusting your path as you go towards your goal and you can only do that effectively by measuring your outcomes.
Make sure that you’re tracking the things that indicate whether you’re moving towards that goal or vision. And going back to the previous point, write them down.
Of course we can be aware of our progress in our heads, knowing whether we’re going towards something in general terms or not, for example, let’s take our sales. We usually know what our sales are because we see them either in orders coming through or in our accounts. But specifically writing the sales down on a tracking spreadsheet and graphing it, or similar, will really give you a much clearer view of what’s going on, enabling you to motivate yourself to keep going towards that vision and to adjust your journey if necessary.
Another point about measuring your progress is that you can have lead and lag indicators. The lag indicators are the things that you can’t change once they’ve happened and you only find out what they are afterwards, for example your sales. You only have a Sales Total when that period is finished, and you can’t adjust that total for previous periods.
Whilst they can be useful for tracking progress, what I really like to use are lead indicators and those are measures of input, that help to create the output.
If you know that to make x number of sales every month, you need to make x number of phone calls or to speak to x number of people, then actually tracking how many phone calls and how many people you’ve met every day or every week can really help you to move towards that goal of x number of sales by the end of the month.
So, when you’re thinking about measuring your progress, think about the lead indicators – the things that actually feed into those lag indicators – and measure those as a priority because that can be more helpful and will enable you to make adjustments to your activity more quickly if needed.
7. You Don’t Celebrate Your Milestones Along the Way
As I’m sure you know, achieving a task or reaching a level can be really motivational in terms of keeping going and encouraging you to do more. If we don’t celebrate anything along the way to achieving the greater vision / goal, it can be really demoralising and can actually end up with us procrastinating, or worse, taking no action at all.
Whenever you’re thinking about a future vision / a future goal, build in milestones along the way that you can celebrate. And make sure that you do celebrate them.
It might be really small things like taking an afternoon off or having a massage, or just ticking something on a sheet to say that you’ve achieved something. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but just make sure you build in that little moment of celebration to acknowledge the progress that you’ve made. That is really powerful and will help you to keep the willpower and determination going to achieve in the end whatever it is you’re planning to achieve.
Your Next Steps…
I’ve talked about the seven reasons why you might fail to meet your goals. I like people to take action after I’ve engaged with them or they’ve read something that I’ve written. So, I would encourage you to go and think about what your vision is or your goals or whatever phrase you’re going to use to describe them.
Be really clear and specific about what they are and that they are achievable. Make sure they are expressed positively and are written down. Make sure you know how you’re going to measure them. Make sure you know how you’re going to celebrate your achievements along the way. And make sure that you’re in an environment with people around you who help you to move towards that goal.
It’s one of the things that I support my members with in my POWER to Live More CALM membership, through the Community and Accountability elements. If it’s something you’re interested in, go here to find out more.