“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ? Ernest Hemingway
It’s goal setting season, so I thought it would be helpful to point out the pitfalls.
Some times the best way to succeed is to know how to fail (and avoid it, or address it.)
I see so many people who achieve their goals, and so many people who don’t. I thought it would be helpful to nail down why so many people don’t achieve their goals, even when they have such good intentions.
Set Yourself Up for Success
I hope that with this list, it takes away the mystery why some people succeed and others don’t. I also hope that it helps re-inspire people who may have given up on goals, by showing how with a few changes, you can set yourself up for success. Lastly, I want to help people avoid some bitter disappointment, as well as help them get back on the horse, if they fall off.
If you master these pitfalls, you can better avoid them or deal with them on your journey, and actually reach your goals.
Wit that in mind, here is a list of the 10 best ways that people don’t achieve their goals …
1. You don’t have a burning desire.
It’s just not important enough. You don’t have enough pain, or you don’t have enough of a burning desire to make it happen. Without enough burning desire, you won’t stay the course. You won’t create enough momentum. You won’t expend enough energy and focus to get over the humps and hurdles you’ll face along your path.
Part of what can hold you back here, is if you have an internal conflict. While you might like the idea of achieving your goal, something inside might tug at you that says it’s not what you really want, or it changes something in some way and causes a problems.
2. You don’t have models, mentors, or maps.
Without a model of success, you’re winging it. You take on the risk of trying to figure out what might work. This can wear you down, or you can lose heart, because you don’t know which, if any, of your efforts will bear fruit. If you have a model of success, somebody who has already achieved what you want, you can learn from what works. It also gives you confidence, because you have a living picture of what’s possible.
Without a mentor, you may not get the guidance or the feedback you need. Also, in my experience, mentors are among the best short-cuts. So if you’re looking to find a faster path, or you want to steer clear of potential pitfalls, that’s where the right mentor can really help.
Lastly, without a map, you can easily get lost along the way. Imagine trying to drive across the country, say from Washington to New Jersey, without a map. While you know the general direction to head, there is a lot of ground to cover, and the potential for a great deal of wrong turns, and dead ends. I’ve done the trip in two days, and five days. I never could have done the trip in 2 days, without a map. A map can be a simple list of the steps you need to take to get from point A to point B, whether you’re starting a workout routine, or learning an instrument, or shipping the next big thing.
In my experience, models, mentors, and maps are the key to achieving goals more effectively.
3. You have the wrong strategy.
You don’t have an effective strategy, or, worse, you have the wrong strategy.
Simply put, a strategy guides your tactics. Wikipedia says strategy is ““A high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.” Personally, I like how Clayton Christensen puts it: “Strategy is what you invest in.”
Some people chase their dreams over a lifetime, but they use the wrong strategy. Maybe they put their nest egg in the wrong financial basket. Maybe they work and slave at the wrong thing. Maybe they try the wrong medical miracle or settle for the wrong treatment. Maybe they try the wrong diet or exercise program. How many people have climbed the corporate ladder only to find their ladder was up against the wrong wall?
It’s now wonder why Tony Robbins calls himself a strategist and why he invests in finding the best strategies for business and life. Strategies are the recipes for results. They are how you lose the battle, but win the war in the long run.
4. You do goal setting, but you don’t do goal planning.
This is where the bulk of people fall down. So many people do goal setting, but fail to do goal planning. In other words, they figure out the goals and what they want to achieve, but they don’t do the work to put a real plan in place.
This is the part where you figure out what do you actually need to do to achieve your goals. This is the part where you put in the effort to put a plan on paper of the steps you need to take, the resources you need, and the time you need to spend (it’s an investment.)
For example, it’s hard to learn guitar this year if you don’t make time for a weekly lesson. It’s hard to learn to tango if you don’t actually sign up for lessons, and go each week. It’s hard to achieve your fitness goals, if you don’t make time in the morning to actually do your workout.
5. You don’t add your goals to your schedule.
If you set new goals for this year, but you don’t change your schedule to reflect them, you won’t likely achieve them. Your schedule reflects your priorities far better than anything you ever tell people out loud or in your head.
How you spend your time is how you reflect your priorities.
For example, if you want to get in great shape this year, by thinking about it often, and imagining that the pounds melt away, that’s far less effective than working out each morning from 6:00 to 6:30 AM with a program that works for you.
6. You don’t dream big.
So many people dive into goals without really stepping into the future and first dreaming big. If you don’t first dream big, then your goals won’t inspire you. For your goals to work for you, they need to help you realize your dreams.
They connect where you are today with where you want to be.
If you first dream big in different areas of your life, such as career, relationships, health, and wealth, then you can breathe new life into any potential goals.
It’s how you make goals that matter.
It’s only when your goals matter that your goals can inspire you, help you focus, and help you make the trade-offs or sacrifices that you need to make, as you pursue your dreams.
7. You visualize achieving your goal, but you don’t visualize how to deal with challenges and setbacks.
So many people simply visualize achieving their goal. But they don’t visualize the process or dealing with the setbacks that occur along the way. It’s as if their dreams are supposed to come true by magic.
Some people say not to visualize achieving your goals. Some people would say to focus on visualize dealing with setbacks. I say visualize both. You need to fully feel the sweet taste of success. Visualize what success will feel like so that you have something to hold on to and inspire you along your journey.
But don’t stop there.
Imagine the potential problems that you will face along the way. Maybe your friends will want to hang out and drink, but you want to work out. Or maybe you’ll find your temptation sitting in your refrigerator, taunting you in the morning or late at night. Whatever your personal challenge is that stands in the way before your change, visualize how you will deal with it. Imagine various ways to deal with it, and play out the possibilities. Give yourself a mental playbook so that when the situation happens, you are ready for it, and you know how to respond.
This will help you build up choices for your challenges, so that you can exercise your choice when you need to.
Your setbacks and challenges won’t stand a chance against your prepared mind.
8. You give up too soon.
It’s easy to give up before the changes happen or the changes stick. I used to give myself up to two weeks for a change to happen. If I didn’t get the results I expected, then I figured it must not be working, so I would change my approach or try something else.
It turns out that for many of the goals I was after, I wouldn’t see the real changes until three weeks in. As a results, I changed my approach and adopted a 30 Day approach. For the month, I would pick a focus, and then invest a little each day, so that by the time the month was over, the changes added up. I was actually surprised by how many of my breakthroughs didn’t happen until week three.
It reminded me how we learn in three stages. First, we get it intellectually. Next, we learn it emotionally, and start to have empathy for the information. Lastly, we bake it into our bodies, into our muscle memory and basal ganglia. It’s how an activity goes from something we have to really think through, to something we do automatically. It’s like learning how to drive a stick-shift, or riding a bike. It starts off mechanical and clunky as we think our way through, but eventually something clicks, and we do it “naturally” or “automatically” without thinking.
One of the best ways I found to achieve goals where I kept falling off track, was to refocus on progress, not perfection. For example, some of the moves in P90X3 (a workout routine by Beach Body) are complicated. And they are tough. Instead of giving up, I decided two things: 1) I would show up, and 2) I would go through the motion, as slow or as half-way as I needed to, so that I would keep going. I focused on making it through it versus making it perfect. Gradually, as I moved through the motions more times, over time, I could start to actually perform the movements, and then focus on my form.
9. You don’t have effective feedback.
This is part of what leads to giving up too soon. If you don’t have timely and actionable feedback, then you won’t know what’s working and what’s worth it. You won’t know when to change, or when to stick with what you’re doing.
For example, when some people try to lose weight, they focus on the weight. So if they are building muscle, they may be burning fat, but the scale might stay the same, or even move up, since muscle weighs more than fat. What some people do instead is they focus on how they feel, how strong they are, how tight they get, etc. With all of these other feedback loops, they make progress, and they can enjoy the little progress along the way.
The little feedback along the way is far more important than the big bang feedback at the end (because you’ll never reach the end, without the positive pulls and pushes along your journey.)
To keep going, the most effective people seek progress, not perfection, and they change their approach if it’s not working, but only after giving their efforts, a fair amount of time to evaluate their effectiveness.
10. You lack focus.
Focus is our force multiplier. It’s how we apply our concentrated effort to make great things happen. When we spread our focus too much, we diffuse our effort, and then we don’t have what it takes to make the change we need.
Whenever I see somebody failing to reach their goals, I simply walk through with them what’s on their plate and how they are focusing on their goals. In almost every case, they have too much going on, and dabble in a lot of areas. They haven’t hacked away at the unessential. They haven’t decided what to invest less in, and what to invest more in. They just sprinkled their goals on top and hoped that things would just work out.
Things don’t just work out, when you already have a busy day, and are pulled in a bunch of different directions, and you have distractions, and competing priorities, all vying for your attention.
But things do work out when you find a model for success, hold a mental picture in your mind of that success to inspire and guide you, schedule time to invest in your goals, plan for how you’ll deal with setbacks and challenges, focus on progress over perfection, and use the feedback you get to adapt and change your approach, while pursuing your goals.
One other important ingredient in reaching your goals is to remind yourself to enjoy the journey. While the journey may be painful and may require a lot of sacrifice on your part, if you remind yourself WHY you are doing it, and tap into your burning desire, you can keep the fire going. You can also change HOW you are doing things so that they are more enjoyable as you go. For example, when Tony Robbins wrote his first book, he didn’t enjoy the writing, so he rewarded himself by a dip in his hot tub during his writing process. The key is that he rewarded himself along the way, rather than wait until the end, and that’s what kept him going.
A little knowledge goes a long way, and you can achieve your dreams the smart way.
Dream big, start small.
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