Why goals fail and 5 simple tips to improve your success

I recently attended a client’s Annual Sales Congress where we ran a goal-setting session for the sales teams, entitled 'Defining Your 2020 Vision'. The session was focussed on accountability and empowerment to achieve both personal and career goals in 2020.


Post attendance I got to thinking; how many people who took the time to set a new goal or set a New Year’s Resolution in January have already given up, lost focus or quite simply, not taken any actions to move towards their goal or desired outcome? I think we intuitively know that this number will be high.

Many of us will set out each year with good intentions that are soon dismissed, forgotten or simply given lip service whilst a minority will plough forward and make lasting and positive change. This raises an important question: why do some people find it easier to set and achieve goals whilst others fail - and more importantly - can we do anything to increase our success?

Let’s start by looking at the why (for some) goals don’t work or are destined to fail.

How much do we want it?

In my 1:1 coaching session, I will always sense check how much someone wants the stated goal and is willing to take the necessary actions to achieve by asking: “On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being optimal) how much do you want to achieve this and how ready are you to take action?”

If the response is less than an 8, I will ask “What needs to happen to make it an 8 or a 9?”. I do this as I want to check commitment and I am intrigued as to how much and why the coachee wants this.

Most goals simply fail or fail to start because:

  • We think we should want it.
  • We want it to gain the approval of others.
  • Others want it for us more than we do or we don’t believe (at some level) that it’s that important.

In each of the above, there is a lack of desire. We need to want and be willing to take action to achieve our desired outcomes and therefore the outcome needs to be super important to us. 

Misaligned goals or values

On a recent Mindfulness workshop, an attendee said: “I believe in this and feel meditation would really help me, but I quite simply don’t have the time to meditate…”.  When I suggested perhaps setting an alarm clock 30 minutes earlier each day the attendee replied “Oh no I’m not doing that, my sleep is super important to me”.

Another example of this could be a sportsperson with a high competitive drive or need to win but who also possesses a strong value of fairness and integrity. Which one wins? Well, if they are forced to compromise their values to get the win it will not sit well and is not sustainable.

Often our values and goals are misaligned. In setting our goals we need to take a reality check and ask, “What else will/or could be impacted by me committing to this?”

Lack of a plan

A goal not written down is just a wish - and how many of them come true? Failure to develop a plan on the actions and the steps required to achieve your goal means your goal is doomed to failure. People will often define or decide on a goal without developing a plan on the 'how' and the 'what' is needed to succeed. Goals are often too far away and by not defining the milestones of success we lose the momentum.

Top 5 tips to achieve your goals

1. Define your goal and write it down.

2. Start at the end and work backwards.

  • Create the vision: what will it look like when I have achieved my goal? What will I feel and experience? What will I have or not have that I have now?
  • Break down the end goal. Define your milestones: where do you need to be at twelve/nine/six/three months to achieve your goal within your timeframe?
  • Define your first steps: what actions are needed now to get to my twelve/three/six/nine month milestones?

3. Share your goal. 
Telling others what we will achieve and by when creates accountability and desire to achieve on our part. After all, no one likes to be perceived as failing in the eyes of others.

4. Get a Coach.
A professional life coach will help you define your goal and develop your plan more effectively. A coach will test your commitment and hold you accountable to your goals, your plan and your key actions.  If you can’t get a coach get a 'goal buddy'. People are 60% more likely to achieve their goals when they work in partnership with a coach or a buddy. A goal buddy is someone who has a similar goal or objective who will hold you accountable and work with you or beside you. (Consider it as your training partner).

5. Share your success and celebrate the small wins.
Some goals are long term but even the short-term ones can be a stretch. To maintain momentum and focus you need to celebrate the successes along the way. Reward the achievement of each milestone and your continued effort. Recognise your hard work, share your success with others and enjoy the journey!

Think back to the last goal you smashed and the one that just drifted away. What, if anything, was the difference between the two?

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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