If thinking or talking about goals makes you cringe a little, know you're not alone.
I can't tell you how many times my stomach has dropped when people have asked me what my goals (or 5 year plan...yikes) are, what I'm doing to achieve them, etc.
I would feel defensive, like I was being attacked, judged, or criticized for what my goals were, whether or not I was actively working towards, and how successful I was based on them.
I dreaded these conversations for many years.
As I've worked on my personal growth - and being extremely objective with myself - I realized that this discomfort wasn't really from other peoples' judgments. It was my own.
I was the one judging myself, feeling insecure and unsuccessful, and criticizing myself for my progress.
In all honesty, most often no one else seemed to care that much and would say, "that's cool" to my aspirations while I struggled with existentialism and self-loathing for hours and hours thereafter.
Now, obviously A LOT of overcoming this pattern involved inner work; working through limiting beliefs, inner child healing, examining my self-worth, confronting my unhealthy patterns, you know how it is.
But that still didn't fully remove my disdain for having and navigating goals.
Inner work is fantastic. It's needed. It's transformational.
But there are times when we also need to do the outer work.
This wasn't all inner blocks. It was also combined with poor strategy, sabotaging habits, and misalignment setting me up for failure - fueling the inner blocks.
It was a cycle, and both components needed to be addressed and reworked.
This brings me to the TOP 3 reasons I see people not reaching their goals...
1. Having Too Vague of Goals
If I had to choose a #1 reason most goals aren't accomplished, it would be this one. The majority of goals people set are just much too vague to actually succeed at.
"I want to lose weight."
"I want to be less stressed."
"I want to be successful."
"I want to travel."
"I want to be rich and debt free."
"I want a house, spouse, and kids."
You get the picture.
Think about reaching goals as if you're crossing a lengthy bridge over a giant, foggy canyon. You decide you want to cross this bridge. You can see the few steps in front of you and it looks safe enough cross, but there's so much fog that you can't see where the bridge leads.
Now, you know where you're starting from - it's literally where you're at now - so you know you're safe currently. You're intrigued by what's on the other side, but you're not 100% confident you'll get there. What if you start crossing and bridge breaks, plummeting you to doom? What if you start crossing and it's not what you expected, do you go backwards or forwards? There's so much uncertainty in crossing, it may feel too risky to cross.
Also remember, you can't see to the other side. You can't get there without knowing where you're going and what that looks like. What if there's missing planks partway through? Maybe it's extremely longer than you thought it was? Or there's something undesirable on the other side, like a very hungry mountain lion? Or maybe the bridge doesn't lead to the cliff you thought it was?
This metaphor isn't to say not to work for your goals or to convince yourself out of them. But the simple fact is you can't know you've reached it unless you know what it looks like to reach them. How will you know you succeeded? How will you prepare and guarantee you'll get there? What will you do if/when challenges come your way?
Maybe instead of looking at the bridge from the entrance, you climb a tree to get a different perspective, consult someone who knows the area well, get yourself some supplies, find another way to cross that's quicker and safer, etc. and with having the knowledge, perspective, and preparedness you can more confidently cross, knowing it's what you want.
So, get specific!
How much weight do you want to lose? By when? Using what methods?
How less-stressed do you want to be compared to where you are now? (Quantify it) What does being less stressed look like to you? How does it feel? How will you know you've gotten to that point?
How often do you want to travel? Where do you want to travel? Is it realistic with your lifestyle and responsibilities? If not, what is or how can you make it so?
What level of income will make you feel rich? Is it a one-time sum, a monthly amount, or a certain lifestyle? Being debt free is a little more specific as you know the amount, but in what time frame do you want to be debt free? In what ways will you get there?
"I will be able to bench press my weight within 60 days." action steps - I will go to the gym 5x per week, starting with the minimum weight and increasing 10+ lbs every week to my comfort level
"I will move from feeling a 8-6 in stress in 3 months." action steps - I will meditate for 10 minutes every day, spend 30 minutes every day working on a hobby/passion project, and will not be available for any after-hour work requests after 6pm
Make sure your goals and action steps are as specific, measurable, and realistic as possible; including deadlines.
2. Balancing Too Many Goals At Once
The second common reason I see is people getting very inspired and motivated, setting multiple goals at once and biting off more than they can chew, then completely burning themselves out trying to follow through with them all and shutting down.
First of all, I love the enthusiasm and aspirations - keep your visions alive!
Second of all, remember that you're human. You gotta take care of yourself, and there are limitations to our efforts as human beings.
Don't get me wrong, you can have anything and everything you put your mind to. You can reach all of your goals, then some! You got this!
But they don't all need to be done today - or this week. And you're not a failure if you make mistakes, need to slow down, or change your goals (we'll get to this more in a a moment) - you're only human. It's important to find a balance between the goals you're working on, life's responsibilities, and living, and it's perfectly okay to pause on one or more if needed for your wellbeing.
If you're exhausting yourself daily trying to meet multiple goals, juggling everything and stressing yourself out in the process, you're not doing yourself any good. Because either you're not giving your best efforts to your goals (integrity is key for long-term success and happiness) or you're overworking yourself to where it's not enjoyable. Your goals are meant to reflect things you deeply desire, things that make you happy and fulfilled, things that make life enjoyable and worth living. And if you're too busy being overwhelmed and drained, you're pushing yourself further from reaching your goals on a mental/emotional level and causing yourself more harm than good. Is it really worth it to reach your goals if you're too burnt out to enjoy it when you get there? Plus once you reach a goal, usually more new goals follow. It's an ongoing process.
Learn to enjoy the process of reaching your goals, because our goals are not an ending point of success.
They're merely a stepping stone in our life's journey.
3. Forcing Or Being Rigid In Your Goals
One thing I never seen talked about when it comes to goal planning is the idea of flexibility and adaptability within your goals. We seem to think that when we set a goal, especially out loud to others, we're signing a blood oath that we have to follow through with or we'll be cursed or something.
Goals are just plans, commitments to yourself.
And how often do we change or not follow through on commitments to others? Exactly.
I'm definitely not saying to bail on yourself or that you shouldn't take your goals seriously, I'm actually saying the opposite. Committing to yourself and your goals is non-negotiable if you want to reach them, and if you're not following through on them there's a reason for it.
More often than not, you're not committing because it's not actually right for you right now.
This can be the goal itself, the steps involved, or the expectations within the goal.
Maybe you have a goal of wanting to make $100,000 because you feel like you should be making that much to be viewed as successful. This can be from family pressures, societal expectations, thinking you need to be rich to have a relationship, or your own ego wanting to flaunt that you're happy, successful, and secure. But if making $100,000 adds stress to your life working a job that you despise, attracts friends/partners who only want to be around you for your money, or you realize you're actually happier when you're making $50,000, then let it go or change the goal to something that feels more fitting rather than trying to force this once because you've been told it'll make you happy or that you need to have this as your goal.
You don't have to force yourself to keep a goal if you realize it's not right or good for you anymore.
Maybe you have a gym/weight loss goal that has you working out every day. But after a few weeks you're starting to feel like it's too physically demanding, taking time away from other things you'd rather be doing, and you're just not feeling excited about it anymore. I know, exercise is good for you so you should just keep at it, right? I say no, not necessarily. Sit down and deeply reflect on this goal. Are you really committed to it and the outcome? Does it feel aligned or forced? What's your core motivation here with accomplishing this goal? Do you just need to tweak how long/often you're exercising if it's too much? Do you need to change the technique to mix it up if you're feeling bored? Did exercising every day seem doable, but now 4-5 feels more fitting? Do you need to allow yourself an extra rest day a week to honor yourself on those random days where you just want to rest? Is this goal as a whole not aligned with you anymore, and you just want to exercise to stay healthy but not to specifically achieve anything?
Give yourself permission to make changes to your goals/action steps so you can fully commit to yourself for success.
Maybe you have the goal of wanting to get married and have kids. So you start trying to date, searching for a life partner, but you're struggling to find "your other half." Firstly, I would explore this goal in general as to why it's a goal for you, and do you only see one outcome for it. Is this coming from your true desires, or the picture-perfect life society has portrayed for us? Secondly, I would explore what's making the process difficult. I know you're working with another person, but when it comes to close, intimate relationships, a lot of inner thoughts and beliefs get brought to the surface. Maybe you're attracting people who won't commit or who don't want marriage or kids? Maybe you don't have confidence in yourself, so deep down you don't think you're worthy of love? Maybe you saw a lot of unhealthy relationships growing up, so you feel like love has to be difficult and dramatic? Maybe you have some inner blocks around openness and vulnerability, attachment styles, or communication? So then after reflecting, maybe getting married and having kids could be a future goal, but right now a better suited goal for you would be to improve your self-love, confidence, or communication skills, or just focus on having healthy relationships with everyone in your life - romantic or otherwise.
Be adaptable in that to reach your big goals, you might need to set and focus on smaller goals first before you're ready for them. Trust and flow with the process, it'll happen if/when it's aligned with you.
Those are the top 3 reasons why you're not reaching your goals. You can call them errors, self-sabotage, eye-openers, or necessary changes if you want.... but I don't want to make you or anyone else feel guilt or shame for doing these. We've all been here (myself included) and the truth is you don't know what you don't know. Sometimes we think we're doing what we need to be doing for success, but it's not always so much about doing as it is about doing in alignment.
Let me know which of these resonated with you the most, and if you're looking for any 1:1 support with setting and navigating your goals, confidently and effortlessly, I'm accepting new clients and would love to support you on your journey.