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Why you may be failing at your goals

July 24, 20208 min read

Why you may be failing at your goals

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve had one or more goals you’ve tried to accomplish, but haven’t got there yet – or feel like you’ve failed. Take heart! It takes persistence sometimes. BUT, there may also be some simple tweaks you can make to your goal setting process that can make all the difference for you. Here’s some suggestions why it may be happening and what you can do about it :


Are you sure these goals are yours? Or are they goals you feel you should be accomplishing, but don’t really really believe in them? Perhaps a significant other/parent or other mentor gave you the message that this is a goal you should be pursuing, but it was never a burning desire you had in the first place.

Solution :

There’s a way to check which goals are truly ours and which aren’t. I’ll be writing more about this in a future post – but for now, ask yourself why you want to accomplish this specific goal. Write down the answer. Then ask why again. And then again. Finding your reasons and motivations behind something can really illuminate for you whether or not it’s a true goal of yours. Is the ‘why’ strong enough and compelling enough to convince you that this truly is a goal that comes from your heart.


Goals like ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to have a better relationship with my children’ are a great start, but are not specific enough to focus your mind towards achieving them. Also, with a vague goal like ‘losing weight’, how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Same with ‘a better relationship with my children’ – although difficult to measure, you need some way of knowing when you’ve reached that goal.

Solution :

You have to get specific. For e.g.

I want to weigh 65kg
I would like to spend at least 1 hour per day enjoying time with my children. I would like to understand what their top 3 interests are right now. I would like us to be affectionate with each other on a daily basis.


Sometimes when you’re pursuing a goal that conflicts with another value that is important to you, you subconsciously feel ambivalent about that goal and so struggle to achieve it.

For example, you have a goal to gain a promotion at work, but family is also very important to you. Perhaps, subconsciously, you don’t believe you can still give your family the commitment they need while going for a promotion (you don’t have to hold this belief by the way, but that’s for another discussion…).

Solution :

First, determine if your goal can be achieved while holding onto the apparently conflicting value. By that I mean that if you’re in an office that absolutely will not promote anyone unless they work 16 hour days, then yes, your goal may conflict with your family values. Maybe you have to give up that goal. But maybe not. You don’t necessarily have to give up the goal, but you may have to find another way to achieve it. This may involve finding work elsewhere, proving to your boss that you’re worth the promotion while working reasonable hours, or another solution altogether. But until you resolve in your mind that both values can be lived out, you’ll subconsciously stop yourself from your goal, or achieve it but there’ll be very little satisfaction in it when you do.


Big goals are great. I LOVE big goals. I’m not saying that you should not have big goals. But what I am saying is that you might be trying to accomplish a huge goal in a very short, unrealistic period of time – and when you keep missing that unrealistic deadline you’ve set, you get disappointed with yourself. Some people who do this repeatedly give up altogether on their goals.

Solution :

Revise your goals. Give yourself a more realistic deadline and break your goal down into steps and milestones that you can achieve along the way. You’re probably a Type A personality and you push yourself too hard {I can relate}. Be patient! You’ll get it done – one step at a time.


This is related to #4 above, but not quite the same. Point #4 relates to being over-ambitious about goals and trying to accomplish unrealistically large goals too quickly. This point #5 relates to that feeling of overwhelm you get because you’ve written down a goal that is hard to accomplish and that scares you. Nothing wrong with it scaring you, but not if it scares you so much that you avoid even starting.

Solution :

Break the goal down into chunks. Lots of smaller goals that add up to the bigger one. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we do just a little a day towards an important goal. It really adds up. Don’t underestimate the power of doing a little, daily. It also keeps it manageable for you. Once you’ve broken down the goal, try not to think too much of the huge (overwhelming) goal down the road. You’ll get there – when you just focus on the small steps in front of you.


It can be very discouraging and demotivating when you work and work your be-hind off and see little results. Or worse, maybe none at all. At that point, it’s easy to start doubting your goal in the first place and doubting your ability to achieve it. After all, you’re trying, and you’re seeing nothing work right? Aaahhhh, but just because you don’t see any results yet, doesn’t mean you’re not moving steadily towards your goal.

Solution :

Ever heard of the Chinese bamboo tree? It hardly grows (visibly) for its first four years. Even though it’s being tended, fed and looked after carefully, it looks as though it’s not responding to all that love and care and effort. But what can’t be seen is the huge root system it is developing underground during those 4 years. And then, amazingly, in its fifth year, it can suddenly grow as much as eighty feet above ground – all in one year. But the groundwork was being done four years previously.


Self-doubt can attack all of us. You think you’re not good enough to accomplish your goal. You think you’re not ready, or you don’t have the talent or experience or know-how.

Solution :

a) Action kills self-doubt. Just take one small step towards your goals. Just one small step. Anyone can do a small thing right? Just do that. Then keep on taking small actions. As you find yourself getting more and more done through your regular actions, your self-doubt will get a lot quieter. Trust me. Continuing to think and ruminate and try to think through every possibility with our goals gets us nowhere. Action is key. And action is the best antidote to your self-doubt.

b) Another way to get rid of your self-doubt is to write down the doubtful thoughts. Then find ways to challenge them. If you can’t think of a way, find a close friend or partner to do it for you. Write the replacement thoughts down and read them whenever that self-doubt tries to consume your mind again.

c) Keep a journal of your successes – no matter how small. We often focus on what we don’t know rather than what we do know. And we focus on what we haven’t done rather than what we have done. Focus on your accomplishments, your experience and every success. Keep an ongoing list and read through it regularly.


You’re trying and trying, you’re putting in all the hard work and effort but still you’re not succeeding at your goals? Frustrating right? But maybe, it’s just that you’re on the learning curve. You’ve found a number of ways how not to succeed at your goals. But one day, one moment, you’ll find the way or ways that it does work!

Solution :

Just keep going. Chalk every ‘failure’ down to experience and learnings along the way to success. Try tackle your goal from another angle. Maybe the method you’re trying just doesn’t work for you – even if it worked that way for others. You have to find what works for you – but you won’t if you don’t keep going. Find a mentor or coach if you need to who can perhaps see what you’re not seeing and identify why it’s not working.


It feels great to have a long and exciting list of things we want to accomplish and get us raring to go. But it can also divide our focus and send us in a lot of different directions. Trying to do too many things at once can backfire when we end up not successfully finishing any one thing – or finishing any one thing well. If you find you’re starting a lot of things but not finishing much, you may be trying to accomplish too many goals at once.

Solution :

Get your BIG 3. 3 big goals for the next 12 months that would make it an amazing, great year. Keep those 3 in a prominent place where you will read them daily. Give everything you’ve got to those 3. Yes you can have other goals – but make sure those 3 get your priority, your attention when they need it, your best energy and time. Find out everything you can on how to achieve those big 3. Read up. Talk to others. Focus, focus, focus.

Have a great year! May you smash your goals this year.

Sue Sundstrom

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