Goal setting is something almost everyone does on a day to day basis whether it be crafting a to do list, making a fitness plan, buying a new home, preparing for a wedding and well the list is endless. What is a goal? Simply put, a goal is an aim, target, inspiration, desire, intention, or objective. The overall objective of goal setting is to obtain greater things. Setting goals has become such an epidemic that millions of people do it every year when they create their new years resolutions. A new year resolution is simply a goal or set of goals people seek to achieve heading into a new year. People view New Year’s eve as an opportunity to start fresh and implement new lifestyle changes that better serve them.
Unfortunately, many people also experience their momentum slowing down throughout the year due to a dwindling of motivation or unexpected life circumstances arising. When obstacles present themselves, you might find it hard to stay on track with goals. This often leads people to relapse into their old habits and patterns. What was once a passionate effort to go vegan is now a very disappointed person binge eating at their favorite fast food spot. Nothing is particularly wrong with that unless that person really wanted to obtain that goal. Sometimes its not just about willpower as it is about having realistic goals. This means that you know yourself best. Thus, you should know how to set goals with the high probability that you will be committed to a goal.
Of course, life has its way of throwing spontaneous hurdles in our direction. However, we have the power to allow these obstacles to hinder us or use them as leverage to propel us forward in achieving our goals.
Believe it or not, there is a way to increase your success in achieving goals and receive the most out of strategic planning. You can learn how to develop goals and how to achieve goals through this ultimate guide.
I. Reasons People Fail to Achieve Goals
- Full Plate
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Negative Habitual Thinking
- Low Self-Esteem
- Vague Goals
II. How to Develop Goals
III. Different Types of Goals
- Stepping Stone
- Personal Development
- Physical & Health
IV. How to Achieve Goals
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” – Fitzhugh Dodson
I. Reasons People Fail to Achieve Goals
Accomplishing goals can start off to be a very exciting experience. However, some people fail because they are setting too many goals at once. There is a misconception when it comes to multitasking as a person can’t give their full attention to several things simultaneously. What really happens is that you are swiftly
alternating between a variety of objectives, not being able to assess each objective in its entirety. So, you might find it takes longer to get anything done by spreading yourself thin. This sense of urgency to complete a task or project can create stress which will eventually translate to below-average performance. Some people dive right into executing a handful of goals only to find their momentum gradually slowing down and becoming overwhelmed with the extra energy being exerted. Also, imagine how many unnecessary mistakes some people make when multitasking and rushing. It leaves a lot to be redone which takes even more time and energy.
Everyone’s abilities are different. Also, everyone’s work ethic and will are unique to them. What may seem doable for one person will prove to be a major challenge to another person. Setting unrealistic goals and having unrealistic expectations is another reason why people fail to achieve their goals. Keep in mind that what may seem realistic to you may be out of the scope of reality for another person. Thus, it’s important not to base your goal setting on someone else’s expectations. You know your pace better than anyone else, so there is no reason to compare or compete. Setting unrealistic goals will only lead to those expectations not being met which can make you feel incredibly discouraged. Discouragement has major potential to slow one’s momentum down, making a person reluctant to even try again. It’s important for us to know what we are able to give in terms of time, energy and effort.
Negative Habitual Thinking
Humans have thousands of thoughts a day, some being reoccurring. Having a fixed mindset is prohibited when aiming to achieve one’s goals. This sets a cap on your own ability and puts a ceiling on your success. A fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities and attributes are inherently unchangeable. This mentality leaves little to no room for growth or expansion. A growth mindset however is best to get out of negative habitual thinking. Negative thinking is one reason people fail at achieving their goals and have a hard time maintaining their goals. Subconsciously, you might believe the goals are too impossible to reach or that you aren’t capable of having success. Negative thinking can stem from childhood experiences, one’s environment, or those of whom one associates themselves with. If you have friends who speak negatively about their plans or turn their nose up at your goals, then they are likely contributing to your negative thinking. Instead of being around people who complain about how broke they are, perhaps you will find better progress spending your time with people who share financial advice and speak positively. Instead of seeing the silver lining, some find it easier to see the big grey cloud. You should make the conscientious effort to do the opposite if seeking to be successful.
In continuation to negative thinking, low self-esteem is a major reason why people fail at achieving goals.
When goal setting, some people unintentionally set the bar lower. It’s as if they don’t have faith in themselves. A lack of confidence makes maintain your plan of action so much harder. People with low self- esteem tend to give up as soon as something doesn’t go as smooth as they’d probably prefer. For some reason they might not believe they have the means to recalibrate, recover or reapply themselves to their goals. To achieve any goal, we have to account for potential setbacks and be prepared to approach our goal a bit differently. Resilience is key to having goals come to fruition even in the presence of opposition.
We’re all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives. Sometimes the goals we set include a list of things that we don’t really care to do. In goal setting, many people fantasize about the final destination. They often neglect looking at the steps it’ll take to reach that end goal as this might make them dread the process. So, some people fantasize and stay in a state of daydreaming. Before they know it, deadlines have passed and they realize they haven’t reached the goal they had intended to. Being lackadaisical can also come from a lack of motivation. It could seem easier to just put things off for tomorrow, and the next day or the day after that. However, it often always never gets done. Instead of distracting yourself from the process, take it one step at a time and reward yourself for each milestone you reach. Make the process fun. Enjoy it!
The first rule to goal setting is to have defined goals. People fail at achieving goals because they lack direction due to their goals being so vague. For example, you might want to lose weight this year and put that down as your goal. However, this is a vague objective. Instead, be specific on exactly how much weight you would like to lose and give yourself a decent time frame to work with. Also, note your starting point by knowing how much you currently weigh. Having vague goals leads to people either underestimating the work needed to achieve their desired result or exhausting themselves by aimlessly overworking.
II. How to Develop Goals
Identify Your Values
Identify exactly what you want as a desired result. Is it something you truly want? Ask yourself why that is your goal. People want a lot of things but are not ready for them. The first step in goal planning is to define goals. Developing goals requires specifications on what you value. Does you goal align with your values? Will this goal change consistently? Ask yourself what you desire out of life whether it be a better relationship with your family, more community involvement or a change of occupation. This starting point is necessary as it will help you to differentiate something you might just want at the moment versus something
you deeply desire and believe will fulfill you in the future. In seeking a new job, do you value a high paying salary, job satisfaction, or both. Consider the why’s, what’s and how’s of all values you have. You may set your goals according to your perception, cultural beliefs, or romantic partner as long as these values align with your personal aspirations.
Is It SMART?
Assess whether or not your goals are SMART. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. You’ll make your goal setting process much easier by using this technique. These are some important questions to ask yourself to figure out if your goal is SMART. Is your goal significant to you? Is your goal meaningful? Would you say your goal is action-oriented? Also, is it rewarding and able to be tracked? If your answer is yes, then you have a SMART goal. Measurable goals are goals you can put into measurable elements and concrete evidence. You can see how you will feel, see or hear when you meet that end goal. If your mind can conceive it, and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.
What is most important to you will greatly assist you developing goals you can set and achieve. Effective goal setting requires that you set goals for yourself and yourself only. Sometimes we want to please others and base our goals off of how it will make others feel once we achieve them. For instance, if you come from a family that highly revered academia, then your parents might have college as a goal for you to achieve.
However, maybe your values aren’t in alignment with going to college. Perhaps you feel called to delve into entrepreneurship and run your own business. If you were to ignore your desires to prioritize other people’s perceived goals for you, then you will struggle greatly to achieve those goals. Not only will you dread the process, resentment may build after achieving that goal and finding that it wasn’t what fulfilled you. To set your own goals, prioritize what you need or want first. Also, once you find specific goals, you must still prioritize your plan of action. For instance, let’s say you want to move into a bigger home within the next 2 years. You’ll probably need to prioritize your savings goals such as getting a price listing and save up money for a down payment.
III. Different Types of Goals
Below are the different categories of goals as well as goal setting examples:
Lifetime goals are usually big goals one aims to accomplish in while they are on this planet and can link to what a person feels their purpose or mission is.
- Become an executive
- Travel the globe
- Get married
- Have children
- Become a millionaire
Some lifetime goals can be long-term. However, long term goals more specifically looks at what you’d like to achieve within the next few months or years oppose to just vaguely the future.
Short term goals are goals one plans to achieve within a couple of days or weeks. Time does vary as everyone’s goals are different. Short term goals could last several months and serve as milestones for lifetime goals.
Stepping stone goals are transactional goals which serve as building blocks for bigger goals. These are more of the action steps to achieve something greater.
- Set a budget
- Sell stuff
- Pay off debt monthly
- Plan wedding
- Pay off loans
- Create an emergency fund
- Get out of debt
- Buy a home
- Donate to charity more
- Save up for retirement
- Enroll in college
- Get BA degree
- Get MA degree
- Get PhD degree
- Raise GPA
- Receive honor roll certificate
- Win scholarships
Personal goals include goals that specifically pertain to making you a better person as far as your skills, talents or abilities may be concerned.
- Write a book
- Learn a new language
- Find a mentor
- Attend therapy
- Read more books
- Take workshop classes to learn new skills
- Improve confidence
- Meditate daily
- Be a mentor
- Donate to a cause
- Join a prayer group
- Practice empathy and mindfulness
Physical & Health
- Consistent exercise routine
- Lose weight
- Build muscle
- Maintain fitness
- Lower cholesterol
- Improve flexibility
- Drink more water
- Complete a fast
- Run a marathon
- Improve endurance/conditioning
Career goals pertain to a one’s occupation and career.
- Get a promotion
- Receive accolade for work
- Expand level of expertise
- Become CEO
- Get a bonus
- Develop soft skills
- Improve job performance
- Make time for spouse
- Get married
- Introduce spouse to your parents
- Have children
- Go out on dates
- Practice self-love
- Increase family time
- Build more trust
IV. How to Achieve Goals
Achieving goals will take persistent effort on your part. Through practice and repetition, you will get closer to reaching goals of yours. There are specific goals that may take a little more dedication and work due to old habits that may still be in place. However, it is absolutely possible.
Break Old Habits
All houses that last are built on a strong foundation. If you have old habits that contradict your goals, then you should reassess those habits and try to eradicate them. For example, we know that eating a lot of fatty foods and not exercising can lead to unwanted weight gain. If your goal is to get healthy, then those habits are counterproductive to the end goal. To break old habits, you must get into the habit of establishing new ones as a replacement.
Psychology of Establishing Routines
Our brain’s run a reward system with everything we do. When we do something that feels good, our brain rewards us with feel good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins. Then, our brain makes the association between the activity and pleasure it brought us. This registers in the mind and we continue to do these activities in pursuit of attaining pleasure. However, not everything that initially feels pleasurable is in our best interest. For instance, some people would rather lay in bed binge watching their favorite sitcoms opposed to getting up and doing an hour long workout. That is because they’ve done that action repetitively and assimilated the data from how they felt with both actions. Through comparison, it becomes easy to decide which they would prefer. However, if you notice the more you develop a consistent workout routine, the easier it becomes and the better you start to feel. The brain starts to recalibrate, making the action of exercising more of a favorable option to you. In the process of developing new habits, you will subsequently break the old habits.
Figure out how much time you need to dedicate each day, each week, and each month into reaching your goal. Time management will also help you in prioritizing and getting down to the specific goals. You don’t want to ruminate over the thought of doing something. You’ll find that you achieve more once you just take that first step.
“A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.” – George Patton
You can create a vision board or use affirmations to help you visualize. Visualization is not fantasizing. It is immersing yourself fully into the reality of you achieving your goal prior to you achieving it. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Who are the people around celebrating with you? The idea is to feel with your senses and create a memory that has yet to happen. This is much more powerful than trying to convince yourself. By visualizing, you will begin to believe. Visualization will help keep you motivated throughout the process of obtaining your goal.
All Goal Setting Articles
This is a complete list of articles I have written on goal setting.