Thinking up a goal is the easy part. Pinpointing the specifics of a goal, developing a plan of action, and then following through with that plan of action and pushing past the inevitable obstacles that will arise is a different story altogether. As you can see, there are many reasons why we fail to achieve our goals.
Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt is famous for having said:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
It would be easy to blame people’s avoidance of pain and difficulty for the fact that a great majority of goals fail to be met, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Well, there most certainly is.
Here are the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals and a few helpful tips to help you reach the goals on your own list.
1. Shifting Focus From Reward to Effort
Thinking about the end result and achieving the victory of reaching a goal is exciting: “Man, I can’t wait until I get that new job title” or “I’m going to look so good at the beach this summer” can be great motivators. It’s easy to start out full of energy and motivation at the beginning because our focus is on the end result.
However, there’s a disconnect with our brain’s focus before we start our goals and after we actually begin. Before we start putting the work in, we’re focused on the reward. Then, slowly but surely, we begin to focus more on the effort (i.e. hard work) it takes to get that reward. The key is to redirect our focus back to the reward as often as it takes to push through.
2. Goals Are Undefined or Unrealistic
Perhaps you want to write a bestselling novel or become the next viral YouTube star. Well, that’s great, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but how do you plan to make any of this happen? Without a clear definition of your goals, they’re just wishy-washy fantasies.
If you’ve never read a book or written anything longer than a tweet, writing a bestselling novel is unrealistic. Likewise, simply saying you want to be a viral YouTube star is too vague without putting some specifications in place.
Give some definition to those goals by setting smaller goals along the way, like “join a writers group” or “make one new video a week.” This will help give you some focus while you work towards those loftier goals.
3. There Are Too Many Things on Your Plate
Having multiple goals at the same time is not a bad thing. However, having so many goals that nothing ever takes a priority will yield poor results all around. If you feel like you’re never fully accomplishing one task or can’t seem to recognize which things are a top priority, there’s a good chance you have set too many goals at once.
A lot of us like to think we’re masters of multitasking, but science says otherwise. Be careful not to overload yourself, learn to prioritize, and you’ll reach your goals faster.
4. Poor Planning Derails All Efforts
Just about every goal is going to require at least some planning, and others are, of course, going to need extensive planning. If you neglect to work out the steps for how to actually get from point A to point B, well, you very likely will never make it to point B.
Maybe you want to increase your business’s customer base by 30 percent in the next year. Will you need to hire more staff to make this happen? What new strategies can be put in place? Do old marketing efforts need to be reworked or discarded? Asking/answering these sorts of questions in the beginning and along the way is crucial.
5. Losing Sight of the “Why” Factor
Let’s say that you must uproot your family and move to a new town for a job. If you have teenagers, they’re almost certainly going to put up some fuss. When the inevitable “why?” comes up, it might be easy to say they have to move because mom or dad has a new job and leave it at that. That’s the reason, but it’s not the why.
Perhaps the move means a higher income for a more comfortable lifestyle or the security of living in a safer environment. It’s easy to lose focus of the why factor when it comes to working towards a goal, and this can hinder progress. Make sure you periodically reexamine why you have that goal in the first place.
6. Excuses, Excuses, and More Excuses
Everybody makes excuses from time to time. Rattling off excuses on why a goal isn’t worth pursuing or didn’t work out is often easier than pushing forward. While some excuses may very well be valid, others are just total cop-outs.
Excuses are a convenience when it comes to abandoning a goal, but they’re also paralyzing. If not kept in check, excuses can derail every goal you attempt. If you feel yourself in danger of hitting the brakes on a goal, take a good look and ask yourself if the reason is valid or just a flimsy excuse.
7. Fear of Failure
Not reaching a goal because of the fear of failure is crippling and an insecurity that can seriously hold you back in life. Nobody wants to fail, and a fear of failure often stems from a need for perfectionism.
The avoidance of taking risks, however, is no way to go through life. The good thing is that by looking at why you may have a fear of failing, you can learn to overcome it and avoid letting it sabotage your goals.
8. Failing to Anticipate Obstacles
Guess what? That fantastic, shiny goal of yours with the too-good-to-fail plan is almost certainly not going to go perfectly to plan. Problems arise, and obstacles get in the way—that’s just how the universe works. If you fail to plan for some of these problems ahead of time, they may just prevent you from reaching your goal altogether.
Try building in strategies and incentives for when you may feel yourself losing focus or run into problems. Having a rock-solid plan A is always a good thing, but a pretty good plan B isn’t a bad idea either.
9. There Is No Set Deadline
Whether it’s trying to learn a new skill or becoming a tycoon of industry, set a deadline for yourself, and write it down! You’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down((Inc.: This Is the Way You Need to Write Down Your Goals for Faster Success)), and if you don’t put a deadline on them, they’re not going to happen.
So why is a deadline so important for accomplishing a goal? It holds you accountable for your time. Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. Okay, when? If you set a deadline of June 1st, you’ll either meet it or you won’t, and a deadline puts the pressure on you to get up and get to work!
10. Allowing Naysayers to Doubt the Goal
The bigger the goal, the more people you may have doubting that you can accomplish it. It’s easy to listen to the naysayers and allow their doubt to sidetrack and even derail your goals, and this can be why we fail to achieve our goals. There are always going to be critics and haters, and a lot of that negativity is rooted in jealousy.
Don’t allow their doubt to get the best of you, and, instead, use it as fuel for the fire to buckle down on your focus and forge ahead.
11. Procrastination Delays Goals
Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Out of all the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals, none are as deadly as procrastination.
It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start tomorrow or reach an obstacle in your plan and decide to handle it later. Too many times though, later never comes, and motivation dies out.
According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the best ways to beat procrastination is to publicly commit((Harvard Business Review: Make Your Work Resolutions Stick)). Most people want to avoid looking lazy or like a failure, and telling others we’re going to do something reinforces our brain’s focus on the reward.
The Bottom Line
Accomplishing goals is seldom easy and can often take a long time and a lot of mental and physical sweat. Now that you know some of the reasons why people don’t reach their goals, you can improve your chances of crossing the finish line to victory.
More Tips on Completing Goals
How To Complete Goals Quickly And Effectively
The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain)
15 Reasons Why You Can’t Achieve Your Goals