10 Reasons we Suck at Reaching Our Goals (And How to Suck Less in the New Year)

12 reasons we suck at reaching our goalsThe new year is just around the corner.

And with every new year that comes, so do countless goals and resolutions that never get accomplished.

Let’s face it. Some of us just really suck at accomplishing our goals.

Sure. We can set them like it’s nobodies business, but when it comes to making them happen, we always find a way to fall short.

I sat down the other night with a glass of red wine trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Why are some of us good at reaching our goals while the rest of us just can’t ever seem to get get it right. A few glasses in, I think I came up with a pretty solid list of reasons. 

As you read through the following list, think about how each may apply to you. If there is one in particular that strikes a chord, read the how to fix it section that follows. Then do what’s necessary: take action. 

It’s time to suck less.

10 Reasons we Suck at Reaching our Goals (and how to suck less in the new year)

Sure. There may be hundreds of reasons why we can’t seem to accomplish any of our goals and resolutions. The following is a list of 10 that I find disturbingly common. 

1. We really suck at getting started

I think one of the biggest reasons we suck so much at reaching our goals is because we suck even more at starting them. When we set overly ambitious goals (which we do because we’re excited), we end up getting paralyzed by premature overwhelm. We look at this monster of a goal that’s in front of us and don’t even know where to begin. So we don’t.

How to fix it: in the new year, instead of trying to accomplish one ginormous goal all at once, slice that big goal into smaller pieces and focus on achieving one small piece at a time. This eliminates premature overwhelm and makes the goal seem more realistic because you can actually see the end of the tunnel.

driving in fog
Achieving big goals is like driving in heavy fog. [source]
Think of a time you were driving through some thick fog. Perhaps you could only see about 10 feet ahead of you, but you still made it all the way home. That’s because you took it 10 feet at a time. That’s exactly how you have to approach your goals too. Focus on 10 feet at time. By breaking your big goal down into smaller chunks, you will trigger a snowball of motivation.

2. Our goals have no purpose

It’s easy to dive head first into a new goal when we’re riding that initial wave of motivation. But what happens when that wave crashes? What’s going to get us through the tough periods that follow? Too many of us lack purpose. We have no idea why we’re setting the goals we’re setting. And this lack of purpose will undoubtedly show itself when a couple of curve balls get thrown our way.

How to fix it: if you’re not setting goals with a deep-rooted purpose to guide you through the rough patches, your goals will end up in the all-too-common junk pile. Before you embark on your journey this new year, define your purpose. It will come in handy when the wave crashes and you start encountering obstacles along the way. Your purpose will serve to remind you why you started your journey in the first place and why it’s worth fighting your way through anything that comes in your way. 

3. We expect things to happen too quickly

We suck at reaching our goals because we suck at being patient. We want results and we want them yesterday. Unfortunately, our lack of patience is causing us to change our strategy before ever giving it a chance to work. It’s causing us to abandon our goals before we ever even fathom the thought of seeing results.

How to fix it: Step back for a second. Take a few nice, long, deep breaths. Relax. OK, now that you’re in a somewhat state of reality, I want you to understand this:

All good things take time.

You need to be patient. You need to give things a chance to work. If your goal is to build a better body in the new year, don’t fall for the “get a sexy body by bikini season” gimmicks. Understand that some goals are meant to be long-term. Be consistent with your efforts and focus on the process, not the end result.

4. We’re not giving ourselves enough room to make mistakes and be human

You’re human right? Go check. Yup, I bet I was right. That means you will make mistakes. It means you’ll have good days and bad days. It means you’ll fall down every now and then. You’ll splurge. You’ll miss workout days. That’s normal.

Too often we let little mistakes get to us. We feel guilty and get too hung up on our slip ups. The pursuit of perfection can be a dangerous game, my friend.

How to fix it: Stop trying to be perfect. You’re not. It’s actually been scientifically proven that no human is perfect. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities “have found that a healthy person carries, on average, approximately 400 potentially damaging DNA variants. The study shows no individual has a full complement of functional genes.

no such thing as perfection
That’s why pencils have erasers! [source]
Don’t you see? We all have dysfunctional genes which essentially renders us imperfect. So stop trying to be something you can’t be. Instead, use the 80% rule. Set your rules and follow them 80% of the time. That other 20% will account for your slip-ups, mistakes, and bad days. By giving yourself room to be imperfect, you’ll avoid discouragement and keep your motivation levels up. Win.

5. We’re surrounding ourselves with crappy people

Crappy people love the fact that you suck at reaching your goals. They love the idea of seeing you fail to reach every single goal you set. That’s because they suck at reaching their own goals and only feel good when they see others go down with them. Immersing yourself in this crowd can be a recipe for disaster.

crappy people
Be willing to be different. [source]
How to fix it: distance yourself from the crappy people. It’s OK to listen to them, but take everything they say with a massive grain of salt. Follow your instincts and look for people who will support you on your journey to a better you. Having a good support system can make all the difference in the world. If you’re in a quick need for motivation, listen to this song.

6. We’re trying to do too many things at once

We really suck at multi-tasking. Studieshave proven this over and over again, yet we keep doing it. When we try to do too many things at once, we don’t end up doing any of them well (or at all). 

How to fix it: look at your list of goals and count how many you have. Now I’m going to need you to do some simple math: take that number (let’s call it N) and subtract (N-1) from it. If that’s too complicated to follow, just pick one single goal from your list and scratch off the rest. Then put all your effort in completing that one goal. Don’t even think about setting another one until you complete the first one. Watch magic happen.

7. We’re immersing ourselves in a tempting environment

So let’s say that you’re trying to cut down on your sugar consumption in the new year. (PS – that’s a great idea.) But wait. Your pantry is loaded with sugary snacks? Your fridge is full of pop and juice? Your drawers at work resemble a mini convenience store with packs of gummy bears and Snickers bars? We suck at resisting temptation so immersing ourselves in an environment that’s filled with temptation is a sure path to goal abandonment. 

Office snacks
If your office drawer looks like this, good luck with your get lean goals. [source]
How to fix it: trying to reach any goal will have its tough moments. So it doesn’t make sense to make it any harder on yourself. Start by changing your environment. Remove any and all temptations. Make things easier for yourself. It might be hard to do, but if you’re not willing to change your environment then perhaps you might want to re-think how important your goal is.

8. We don’t have a backup plan (or any plan)

Perhaps we suck at reaching our goals because we’re constantly trying to wing it. We have no plan. No path to follow. Nothing to guide us. So when an unsuspecting curve ball is thrown our way, we have no clue how to react. We get flustered. We stop trying. And then we quit.

How to fix it: plain and simple, you need a plan. But not just any kind of plan. You need to come up with ways around every possible obstacle you might encounter on your journey. You need to plug all the holes before you encounter them. Sure it takes some work upfront, but it’s completely worth it.

According to Gregory Ciotti in this fascinating article, researchers in one study found that “not only do well laid plans seem to get accomplished more often, but planning for failures along the way helps people stay on task under duress.” But how exactly do you plan for failures?

Greg recommends you set up an if-then plan. 

Having those “In case of emergency…” plans help us to have a game plan in case we do falter, and including a small ‘penance’ can help us get over it quicker.

Hmmm penance. I like that word. But what does it mean?

Let’s say you set a goal for yourself to exercise three times a week. All sorts of things will come up to try and stop you from achieving that goal. Work. Picking up the kids from school. New Breaking Bad episode is on. Whatever.

Your if-then plan could be something like this:

“If I don’t exercise three times this week, I will not eat out next week.”

By setting up a simple penance of some kind (that you can stick to), any time you slip up you will know exactly what you have to do to get yourself back on track. This should help you quickly get over your guilt and move forward with your goal. Win.

9. We’re not writing our goals down

A goal that isn’t written down physically on paper is unlikely to get accomplished. And let’s be honest, we never write stuff down.

How to fix it: simple – write your goals down. 

reasons we suck graph
Study results show the power of writing your goals down [source].
A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% of people who planned their intention to exercise by writing down when and where they would exercise each week ended up following through. Compare this to 38% who followed through because they didn’t write anything down.

Numbers don’t lie.

10 – We’re not in love with the process

It’s easy to work hard and get things done when we’re excited and motivated. But, again, what happens when the motivation disappears? What happens when the routine becomes repetitive and boring? Unfortunately, many of us pack up our things and go home.

How to fix it: the key is to become committed to the process. You have to fall in love with the daily routine. When asked what the difference was between really successful people and everyone else (in James Clear’s post on staying focused), one particularly experienced coach said the following: 

“Really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.” [source]

Stop thinking about the end result and start falling in love with boredom. Fall in love with the practice and the routine and let the results take care of themselves.

Your turn… 

Si we’ve covered some of the main reasons we suck at reaching our goals. Now it’s your turn. I want you to share one strategy that you use that helps you accomplish your goals? Scroll down and share your thoughts in the comments below!

I wish you the best of luck with your goals and aspirations in the new year!

4 thoughts on “10 Reasons we Suck at Reaching Our Goals (And How to Suck Less in the New Year)”

  1. Hey srdjan,

    Belated happy birthday! Continue being an inspiration towards achieving our dreams!
    Keep writing!
    The best is yet to come,

  2. I still fit in the first category, and in the fourth too… and in the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth and a bit in the ninth… Got work to do for 2014 🙂
    Thanks for the post !

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