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As we rapidly approach the New Year, and many of us are contemplating our goals for 2023, I thought it timely to give a reminder of why goals fail so that you can avoid them and create goals that stick.
I set goals every year. Some I reach, some I don’t, but that’s OK if I have a good enough reason why. Typically, it’s not because it’s not important or relevant to me, but that ‘thing’ usually no longer fits with the direction I want to go in. Flexibility and the ability to critically review your goals are really important.
Why Goals Fail
Research shows that 23% of people who set New Year’s resolutions quit in the first week, just 36% make it past the first month, and only 9% successfully manage to stick to them long-term.
Over the years, I’ve spotted several reasons why goals fail, both with myself and with my clients:
- The goal isn’t yours; it’s something someone else thinks you should do, be, or have, e.g. partner, parents, boss, friends, etc. If that’s the case, you’re never going to be as motivated as you would if it were a genuine, deep-rooted ‘want’.
- It’s something you think you should do, be or have because that’s what everyone else is talking about or going after, e.g., a big career, fancy house, fantastic six-pack. But deep down, it doesn’t feel authentic or something you really want.
- You limit yourself by setting goals that are too small or not in line with your true desires, e.g. you set goals that you think you can achieve rather than stretching yourself and going after something more significant. Limiting beliefs are typically at the bottom of this reason.
- You don’t have a plan for how you’re going to achieve it, including the daily activities necessary, and maybe most importantly, you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do (a) when you don’t feel like it or (b) ‘life’ gets in the way.
- You go at it too hard from the offset which is overwhelming to your nervous system, resulting in self sabotage.
- You don’t give yourself time to create new habits necessary to sustain the activities needed to complete your goal, which again results in self-sabotage.
- You don’t have a big enough ‘WHY’. Most people don’t even consider why they want to do, be or have the ‘thing’, but I guarantee if the why isn’t big enough, it’s unlikely that you’ll reach it.
I’ve talked a lot about self-sabotage in previous articles. For most of us, starting to work on a new goal is exciting. It also produces significant amounts dopamine (the reward chemical) which is responsible for making us feel good about our progress, helping to propel us forward in those first few days or weeks.
However, suppose you don’t have a realistic a step-by-step plan around how you will reach your goal, i.e. you decide to ‘wing it’. If that’s the case, as soon as the going gets tough, which it will, your nervous system will perceive a threat and attempt to stop you (usually through procrastination), moving you back to a place it’s familiar with (even if that original place is painful).
It’s important to note:
Your brain likes what is known, even if what is known is painful.
Your brain will always try to move you away from anything it perceives could be painful and back to the comfort of what it knows (even if, in the long run, the new thing would be more advantageous).
Examples of this pleasure/pain theory are when someone stays in a job they hate because they ‘may hate a new job even more’ adopting the ‘better the devil you know’ standpoint.
Alternatively, someone may lose a substantial amount of weight, garnering plenty of previously unwitnessed attention. Before long, they put it all back on because, suddenly, being ‘seen’ is uncomfortable, and the subconsciously judges it unsafe.
Know When to Quit
It’s essential that we talk about when to quit. I’ve seen some people tie themselves up in knots because they ‘aren’t a quitter’ and, therefore, HAVE TO achieve a goal at all costs, even when it no longer serves them.
As I said at the beginning of the article, I used to do this, but don’t any longer. Instead, I regularly review my goals to ascertain whether they still fit with where I am, what I’m working on and what’s important to me, rather than beating myself up for not achieving something that is no longer relevant.
Consciously reviewing goals from time to time, drawing a line under those that no longer fit with where you are and what you want now, does not make you a loser. On the contrary, it makes you a winner for not wasting valuable time, energy and other resources on unimportant, outdated goals.
For more information on how to set ‘Goals That Stick’, visit the article I wrote last January on this topic.
For help with setting and reaching your 2023 goals, contact me for a free, no obligation 15-minute discovery call; email me at email@example.com.