“Winners and losers have the same goals.” – James Clear

If that quote is true, why do some people reach their goals and others never even get close? What’s the difference? As we’re approaching the new year and goal setting, the answers to this will become more important. We need to understand the obstacles and barriers we’re going to encounter, and we need to know our enemies. Successful goal setting requires awareness. 

Before we go any further, keep in mind that I said goal setting, not making resolutions. They are very different. A resolution is simply an intent – the kind of intent that fills up fitness clubs through January and February. Goals are intent backed up by details, a specific plan, and commitment. People who set goals are still showing up to the gym in April, May, and June.

With that, let’s dive in. Here are twenty reasons people fail in achieving their goals and some simple ways to avoid that failure…

1. You Procrastinate – Odds are if you wait until tomorrow to start working toward your goals, you never will. Don’t wait. Every day you do takes you one day further from reaching your goals. 

2. You Don’t Own Your “Why” – When you’re choosing your goals, they need to be connected to your “why” – to your purpose in life and the things you’re passionate about. Tying your goals to your “why” will keep you committed when things get challenging. Without your “why” you will quit.

3. You’re Listening to the Wrong Voices – People will tell you that you can’t. Your goal is too lofty, too big, or too hard. Protect your goals from the naysayers, whether those voices belong to other people or it’s your own voice that is pulling you away from what you want. Stay open to advice, but make sure it’s coming from the right people. 

4. You Have No Accountability – Willpower is never enough. If you want to achieve your goals, you need to include some accountability in your plan. Share your goals with other people and give them permission to hold you accountable to doing what you say.

5. You Have No Systems – When you set a goal, certain actions need to be taken to achieve that goal. Without action, your goals are wishes. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, has done some amazing writing on using systems to manage your actions and create results. 

6. You Have No Plan – Poor planning is a goal killer. Once you have your systems in place, create a plan around those actions. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do this week to make progress?” Stick with the plan, pivot when needed. Measure and repeat. 

7. Your Goals Are Too Vague – Two common mistakes we make are setting squishy goals and not writing them down. Write down your goals and make them S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.  

8. You’re Hanging With the Wrong Crew – When it comes to goals, surrounding yourself with the people who will help you get there is essential. Sometimes that means changing who we include in our circle. It can also mean hanging with online mentors like Ed Mylett, Jesse Itzler, and Lewis Howes

9. You’re Letting In the Distractions – TV, YouTube, social media… They can create huge distractions in our lives and hijack our attention and energy. Achieving your goals often requires turning off the distractions, removing their power, and refocusing on your destination. 

10. Fear is Paralyzing You – From the fear of failure and the unknowns to being afraid of success, fear has the power to paralyze. Instead of focusing on my fears, I’ve learned to focus on my faith, what is real, and what I can control – not what might happen and what I can’t do anything about. 

11. You Keep Getting Stuck in the “How” – Kill the analysis paralysis. There are times when you can see the first three steps but not what comes next. That’s ok. Trust that once you get to step four, you’ll figure it out. 

12. You’re Impatient – Results take time and achieving big goals that stretch you takes hard work. Practice active patience. When the results aren’t showing up as quickly as you’d like, embrace patience but keep working. Quitting too early becomes a dangerous pitfall. Don’t quit. Keep going.

13. You’re Trapped by Comparison – Social media has made comparison an easy trap to fall into. Avoid the temptation to judge your results based on other people, and stay focused on your actions, energy, and the work you’re putting in.

14. You Don’t Believe You Can – Belief is the key to achieving anything, especially our goals. If you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right. Believe you can, visualize reaching your goals, and plant success in your subconscious.

15. You’re Chasing Someone Else’s Goals – Earlier this week, I shared a great example about this, a young man I was trying to mentor who was getting exhausted chasing his mom’s goals for him, not his own. Choose goals you are passionate about – that will give you the fuel to keep going when challenges arise. 

16. Your Environment Sucks – When I decided I wanted to become more fit and change how I was taking care of my body in 2021, it began with creating a space that supported my success. I hid the snacks, put fruit out on the counters, and quit buying the food that didn’t align with my goals for myself. You can hack your environment in the same ways.

17. Your Goals Are Invisible – Too often, we set a goal and then never look at it again. This past year, I’ve refocused on writing my goals down and then leaving visual reminders of them throughout my house, my office, my car, and even in my wallet. I’ve also used weekly one-on-one accountability with others to keep my goals constantly visible.

18. You Set Too Many Goals – Less is more. In the past, I would set seven or eight goals for myself and try to chase all of them at one time during the year. Now, I set two or three goals for myself, and I chase them in ninety-day sprints. This strategy has allowed me to get laser-focused on what I’m working on and not dilute my energy.

19. You Love Your Excuses – We’re heard and used them all. “There’s not enough _____.” “I don’t know how to _____.” “I’m too _____.” As long as you love your excuses and keep embracing them, you will never achieve what you want. You need to kill them, bury them, and forget about them.

20. You’re Surprised by the Obstacles – Obstacles will come at you. You need to anticipate as many of them as possible and prepare for them as well as you can. Then, for the challenges and barriers you couldn’t anticipate, you need to guard how you react to them. This is where neutral thinking comes into play. 

I have personally fallen into every trap listed above, which made this list easy to create. Pick any of the traps I shared and I can tell you a story about how it kept me from getting where I wanted to go. Today is different. My awareness of the pitfalls and washed-out bridges along the path has increased. With that awareness, my tendency to fall into these traps has decreased. I haven’t nailed it all, but being aware of the challenges above has made achieving my goals much easier. Not easy… but easier.

The Takeaway

Look at the list of challenges above and name the most dangerous areas to you. Which ones are your greatest enemies? Which ones represent the most significant obstacles? Which one do you think you’ll encounter on your path? Being aware is the first step. The second is to do something to knock those obstacles down. Take a moment and name one or two things you will do to keep the obstacles from keeping you away from what you want in 2022. 

I’ll be sharing my free 2022 goal setting tool next week. It’s the tool I use each year to set my own goals, and I know it will be valuable to you as well. Subscribe here to make sure you don’t miss it.

Ready for more?

Follow me here for more insights like this one and weekly encouragement to keep you moving toward what you want. If you liked this, you’ll also get massive value out of the Grit Meets Growth podcast that I share with Chris Cathers. Find it here or on your favorite podcast platform. Make it a great day! – John