Why Your Goals Usually Fail

Success & Failure

“I’m going to lose 20 pounds!”

“I’m going to stop eating junk food!”

“I’m going to cut my budget in half!”

“I’m going to start working out more!”

We often hear these goals and goals like them. Especially at the beginning of the year as we set New Years’ resolutions for ourselves. And every year, roughly 90% of the resolutions that we and others set for ourselves will fail. That’s right, nearly 90%! Here are a few reasons why…

We often set several goals at once

This leads to our focus and energy being spread too thin. We are not able to devote the necessary energy and focus to accomplish our goals which is essential to success. Although we may be doing fine for the first few weeks or month, our efforts aren’t sustainable and we will ultimately fail.

Taking on many goals at once spreads out your available energy and focus and motivation, so that you often run out of steam after the initial couple weeks of enthusiasm. — from the Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Our goals are too vague

“I’m going to start working out more!” What exactly does “workout more” mean? Does this mean more weight training or cardio or both? How many days more per week are you going to train?

If you don’t identify and specify what exactly your goals are, they won’t be accomplished. There must be an end-goal in mind and that first requires having an explicitly-stated goal.

I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants. — Zig Ziglar

Our goals are unreasonable

Being a former baseball player, from little league up until collegiate ball, after every Spring season without fail I would hear this from my teammates before they left for summer break: “Dude, I’m going to get so jacked this summer. I’m going to gain 20 pounds of muscle!” And every fall, without fail, those same players would return with their pencil-necks still fitting into their 8th grade brothers’ Under Armour. Ok, I exaggerated a bit, but you get my point….

First of all, gaining several pounds of muscle is a very difficult task that requires the right combination of eating properly, strength training, and giving your body enough time to recover. Attempting to gain roughly 10lbs a month of muscle is an incredibly difficult task that will more than likely fail. While this goal is much more specific than the one above goal to “start working out more”, it is unrealistic and more than likely unattainable.

Our goals are too drastic and not sustainable

If you’ve been drinking three Coca Cola’s a day for the last few years and you set a goal to completely eliminate sodas from your diet, do you think this will be a sustainable change? Hell no. This goal is far too drastic, and too drastic of a change cannot be maintained for a long enough period of time to fully accomplish your goal. Instead we must break down this goal into smaller, incremental steps.

Example: I want to reduce my expenses on eating out from $600/month to $300/month

If you spent $600 eating out last month, it will be very hard to cut down and spend $300 this month. Plus, as mentioned above, this drastic change won’t last. Here is a much more sustainable plan for reducing your spending over the course of several months.

Last month: $600

This month’s goal: $550

Next month’s goal: $500

Month 3 goal: $425

Month 4 goal: $375

Month 5 goal: $300

This type of slow, incremental change takes much longer, but it is completely sustainable and will absolutely last longer than short and drastic changes.

The #1 reason why our goals fail…

Our goals are not aligned with our core values

I have always been a pretty healthy eater. But I still enjoyed sweets, processed foods and other forms of junk food often. It was only after I made being as healthy and fit as possible a top priority that was I able to slowly but surely make drastic, healthier changes to my diet.

Think of some goals you have set for yourself but failed to accomplish in the past. If you set a goal to lose weight and failed to do so, think of the reasons why. Think of your values. Perhaps you failed because you valued your time and grabbing fast food more than you valued getting healthier and making your own nutritious meal at home. Or perhaps you failed because you enjoy being social and drinking with friends multiple nights per week.

Stay tuned for more on this! In the next post we will discuss how to effectively and strategically plan to accomplish goals.

What’d you think of the reasons listed above? Did I miss any? Let me know your thoughts below!

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