Setting goals can be a fun process. Many programs have you do things like turn on music that inspires you and imagine your life ten years out if you could have everything go your way. It’s a fun exercise and can get you excited and maybe even motivated. But it’s just that – the fun part.
See, anyone can set a goal. It’s easy. Grab a piece of paper, write down result and add a date to it and you have a goal. Sure, some of us put some time and effort into thinking about that goal. We ask ourselves questions like “how much would it cost to move to a tropical location?” or “how many days per week would I have to hit the gym to make my weight loss goal?” That part is important because it begins the commitment process – consider it the emotional down payment on your goal.
But the real key to reaching a goal is action. You can spend days, weeks and even months planning, which is also important, but planning isn’t enough. You will never reach your goal without taking action. All the wishing, dreaming, planning and asking the universe may put a smile on your face, but that’s all it will do for you if you don’t take action.
Taking action is the most critical state because not only does it produce results, but it tests your commitment to your goal. And this is where most people fail – they hit that first bump in the road and then use it as an excuse to turn back. The unfortunate thing is that the person walks away from the situation figuring that he or she is failure and just not up for this goal setting thing. While that might be true for some people, the real issue is that the process that they are following is flawed. To further illustrate this, let’s look at the top four reasons people don’t reach their goals:
1. They truly aren’t committed to the goal:
This goes back to the point where people give up when they reach their first set back. To use a simple example, let’s say your goal is walk to your local convenience store to pick up an item. It’s a walk that under normal conditions takes you about ten minutes. If the item is something that’s not terribly important to you, perhaps someone in your household asked you to get a bag of chips for them, you’ll go if it’s a nice day outside. However if it were to be raining, snowing, very hot or very cold, you’d be less inclined to take the walk. Now if the store were giving out bars of gold, it would probably take a tornado to prevent you from getting there, even that might not stop you.
The point here is that goals are just like this. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way around the setback. If you’re not truly committed to it, then you’ll walk away from it as soon as you can find an excuse. In my Setting Achievable Goals class, I spend a lot of time focusing on whether the goals we set as part of the class are goals truly worth achieving (the audio CD for the course also discusses this as it walks you through the process).
2. They lacked clarity with their goal:
Sometimes when we set our goals, we aren’t exactly clear on the desired result. For example, someone looking for work might set their goal as “getting a job.” The problem here is that this they could get a job, but it could be one they don’t like, are overqualified for or underpaid at.
Another example is to “get in shape.” This person will undoubtedly start some kind of exercise program or diet but without a clear result, will have a hard time figuring if he or she is making progress. This will often lead to this person giving up because he or she doesn’t have a target result and doesn’t see any progress because he/she doesn’t have any clarity as to what constitutes progress.
3. They misjudged the amount of effort, resources and/or sacrifice needed.
Goals always look great on paper. Even when you create the action plan down to every last detail – including scheduling each task on the plan – it can look like a sure bet. But one thing you need to bet on is the unexpected. There’s a good chance that unexpected setbacks will happen or that you made an incorrect assumption or missed a minor detail.
When it comes to promoting my business, I have a lot of tasks that involve connecting with people online. There have been times when I’ve set 30 minutes aside to do a 15 minute task, but ended up spending 45 minutes on the task because my computer was acting up, or the web site I needed to access had issues or I got interrupted or distracted.
In other cases, an hour or two a day to work on your goal might seem easy enough to do. But when put in practice, it means that you’ll have less time for leisure, your family or even sleep. And after a few days, you find that the sacrifice is more than you bargained for.
4. They got off track and couldn’t catch up:
I get a magazine each month that has something motivational to read each day. It typically takes me about 15 minutes to read the passage and reflect on it, but there are nights I just don’t get to it. So then I try to make it up the next day and read two of them, but then I get too busy and skip it again and now I’m behind by three days. Eventually I just get to the point where I skip the readings I missed and just start with whatever day I get back on track.
The problem with goals is that they are often set in a manner that doesn’t allow a lot of leeway for unplanned breaks. There are two options here, other than giving up: either push the date out for your goal (assuming the dates aren’t firm) or scale back your goal so that you can still accomplish the more critical parts in your timeframe. In my course, I actually have people work potential setbacks into their action plans as well do a few other things to help minimize the impact of setbacks.
People miss their goals for a number of reasons but those reasons typically fall into these four areas. If you find that any (or all) of these affect you on a regular basis, try some of the tips above. Sometimes a simple change in the way you go about setting and achieving goals will yield big results.
Setting and achieving goals can be a fun process, but more often than not the process that most people use is flawed. I spent over a decade using goal setting systems that never yielded the results I wanted. Yes it was fun to dream and imagine myself being successful, but I finally had an epiphany when in the middle of trying to reach a goal, I realize that I no longer cared about it. It prompted me to create my own system which has worked well for me. I mainly do my goal setting sessions for private functions, but if you’d like to check it out, I have an audio program that walks you through the process.