Let’s be honest, we’ve all set goals that have failed. Although most people would agree
on the importance of goal setting, surprisingly only 20 percent of the population sets
goals, and, with that same group, 70 percent fail to achieve their goals!

It’s a wonder that anyone accomplishes anything remarkable at all in business and in

Goal setting is supposed to be a positive, powerful practice that ignites enthusiasm and
provides clear direction. To be successful, we should set SMART goals: Specific,
Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. However, when practiced poorly, goal-
setting has a serious dark side that can undermine our success, making us cynical and
fostering confusion on where to concentrate our energy.

Why do people fail to achieve their goals? What follows are 10 ways goals can fail –
and some suggestions on combating these pitfalls. Avoid these roadblocks and goal
attainment will be yours!

1. NO AUTHENTIC PURPOSE. For every goal, there must be a deeper motivation that
fulfills our sense of purpose. This is because taking purposeful action appeals to the
emotional side of our brain, which feels good and fuels our desire toward
accomplishment. The easiest goals to accomplish are the ones that we desire the
most and make us almost leap for joy at the thought of achieving them.

2. NOT SPECIFIC. If we set a goal to “lose 10 pounds by spring break,” for example,
there isn’t enough detail for the rational side of our brain, which can encourage
excuses that get us off track. Setting very clear, detailed goals will help the rational
side of the brain follow through. You’ve heard the old adage, “Failing to plan means
planning to fail.” It’s really true! So, determine your action plan with specifics on
exactly how you’re going to lose weight – such as type of workouts, days and the
times, classes, diet adjustments, etc.

3. LACK OF MEASURING. In addition to being specific and inspiring, our goals must be
measurable. This enhances our ability to create feedback mechanisms that monitor,
control and correct the process of achieving our goals. The same goes for business
plans. If we can develop specific tactics, a timeline and a way to measure our
progress, then we provide a successful road map for achieving business goals.

4. TOO BIG. If our goals are too large and overwhelming, they may be hard to
accomplish. Goals that are subconsciously unachievable or outside our mental
boundaries of reality, are much less likely to be accomplished.

Current research on goals suggests that we will go through three phases:

 Phase I: We come out strong with enthusiasm and determination.

 Phase II: We hit the “Brick Wall” and start to have a sense of failing at our
goals or losing motivation. This is especially true if we have longer-term
goals, which tend to make it easier to hit a valley. This could show up as
lack of money, a lack of support for an idea from family or friends, or
simply a loss of interest in trudging ahead toward a seemingly unreachable

The Brick Wall is a critical point to re-adjust our goals and timelines,
possibly simplifying them or having more short-term goals that give us a
sense of accomplishment that fuels our long-term goals.

 Phase III: Completion!

So, does Phase II sound familiar? Another related tip to prevent burn-out in Phase II is
using the 80/20 rule. Try to be dedicated to achieving your goals 80% of the time, and
lighten up on yourself 20% of the time, within reason. Staying “on goal” 100% of the time
will eventually burn you out.

5. TOO COMPLICATED. If we spend too much time upfront on designing elaborate
goals and tracking systems, we may find that our best efforts may not be
sustainable over time. If creating and tracking goals takes too much time away from
accomplishing the goals, then it’s time to prioritize and simplify goals.

6. TOO MANY. Along with complicated goals, we may create too many goals, making it
impossible to complete anything. People with too many goals feel that they never
can accomplish a complete task. They may also be confused about what is most
important to accomplish or fall prey to the “check it off the list” syndrome, in which
they check tasks off their list half way before accomplishing the goal due to lack of
motivation or simply being willing to “settle” for less.

7. NO ACCOUNTABILITY. When we talk about our ambitions, we feel accountable to
other people. Find a mentor, co-worker or coach to share your goals with and to hold
you accountable. There is strength in numbers!

8. NOT WRITTEN. Writing down goals is critical to making them happen. And, regular
review and follow-up of your goals make them LIVE. Post your goals in two visible
places, such as by your computer and on your personal bathroom mirror, and review
them twice daily – first thing in the morning and before bed if possible. Anchor your
goals by visualizing what it’s like to accomplish them. Refine your goals monthly as
needed. Last, make sure your shorter-term goals and action steps continue to
support your longer-term goals, which are the guideposts to accomplishing your

9. FOCUS ON FAILURE. If we ignore celebrating the goals we’ve accomplished in the
past, we lose sight of our innate ability of great achievement. Our minds are too
busy focusing on our “failures” versus our “successes” – and we inadvertently
encourage more of the same. Essentially, the subconscious slinks away with its tail
tucked between its legs, resigned to failure!

In his book, The Gap and the Gain,Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach and
author of dozens of books for business leaders, shares that the Gap and the Gain
describes two ways of thinking that measure your progress in life. Gap-thinking is
focusing your thoughts of the “gap” between where you are now and where you want
to be. Gain-thinking is focusing on how far you’ve come, or the gains you’ve made.
The theory of Positive Psychology suggests that our thoughts create outcomes over
time, so the byproduct of “gain” thinking is ultimately more gains!






To combat this focus on failure, measure backward, listing all the goals you’ve
achieved in the past and celebrate your successes. Acknowledge yourself for work
well done. Then moving forward, every time you achieve a goal – no matter how
small – reward yourself in some way. Our subconscious needs this kind of subtle,
but extremely important, fine-tuning to set us up for success!

10. LACK OF MOTIVATION. Finally, many people are simply satisfied with what they
have and where they are in life. Change and goal attainment only happens when
we’re ready to break the status quo and truly want something better! That brings us
back to Roadblock #1: Connecting goals to what you’re passionate about is the
ultimate motivator to success! By finding purpose in the mission of a specific
company, or a type of work, or a particular hobby or activity, you’ll have the energy
for Roadblocks #2-10!!

YOUR CHALLENGE: (1) Review or define goals. (2) Link goals to a deeper purpose. (3)
Make them clear, well-defined and measurable. (4) Implement the 80/20 Rule. (5) Find
people to hold you accountable and review your goals daily.

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