Listen to this.
‘From the minute I set my goals, I have worked very hard. I did all the things which I felt would bring me closer to my goals. I have stuck them in a prominent place where I remind myself of them every day! But the more I keep pushing myself and trying to reach them, the more they seem elusive. What stops me from achieving my goals?’
‘What am I doing wrong??’
If you are someone who can relate to this, trust me you are not alone. These questions have haunted me too! I used to wonder what it was that I was doing wrong and after a long time, it struck me. I almost always knew what I needed to do to achieve my goals. The problem was in the way I approached the process of achieving them.
In most of my failed goals, these were the traits which stood out.
Stress, Fatigue, Impulsive Action, Laziness, Impatience
What is common among these traits? They all represent extremes. This is the ugly truth about most of our goals. Either we are in too much of a hurry to achieve them. Or we try so hard that they cause burnout and we give up on them. Both of these extremes rarely yield results.
Watch out for these danger signs before you begin to chase your goals.
“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan…”
It is human nature to want things here and now. Especially in today’s age where internet is flooded with messages such as ‘Lose Weight in 15 days’, ‘Become a millionaire in a month’, it is hard to remain focused and persist with our action plan.
The reality is, anything worth achieving takes time and consistent effort. Most successful people treat their life as a marathon which consists of maintaining a long and steady rhythm in effort combined with a laser-like focus.
Your goals should reinforce your purpose and motivate you to go through the grind. If you start finding that instead of pushing you forward, they are compelling you to seek instant results and making you lose focus, it’s time to take a long hard look about whether they’re worth it.
“Great Work is not ordinarily done in busyness”
This is one of the extremes which you should be very careful about. Often people set over-arching goals which require them to stretch their limits all the time. As human beings, we are capable of achieving whatever we set our minds to. But this doesn’t mean we push ourselves so hard that we break.
When you try to achieve too many goals at once, the process will overwhelm you. Very soon, before you realize you will start getting frustrated with the lack of results. This often leads to becoming wary of your own efforts and the beginning of procrastination.
The end result? You will lose trust in the power of goals and become content with a complacent existence which may end up making you mediocre.
A better way is to plan goals in such a way that they remain aligned to your overall purpose in life. And smart people always set a limited number of goals which allow them to manage their energy levels without suffering burnout. Learn from them and remember the 80-20 rule. Focus 80% of your energy on the 20% of goals which will make a difference in your life!
Rewarding Yourself Too Early / Never Rewarding Yourself
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”
For some of you, there will be an over-enthusiastic fellow waiting inside of you who will pounce at each small milestone and tempt you saying ‘Go on! You have already achieved this much! Go and celebrate! In fact celebrate double!!’
We all know how this usually ends. The celebration becomes a party and the party results in a bad hangover. By this time, all the momentum that had been built in you slowly dissipates bringing you to square one. Very few people recover from this temporary high and begin their uphill battle. Most just give up.
The opposite is equally true, if not more dangerous. Unless your goals have milestones where you stop and unwind, it will be very difficult to sustain the enthusiasm and keep going. Whenever you get the feeling you have been at it too long, give yourself a well-deserved break and swing back into action.
Remember the secret which will help you avoid both these extremes is balance.
Seeking Approval of Others
“People striving for approval from others become phony”
This behaviour is seen when you become obsessed with getting recognized by others for your goals. Or even worse, you start setting goals to please others and gain their approval.
It’s natural for us as social creatures to want to be recognized and accepted. Achievement and recognition are the pillars which drive all the successful people. But there is a subtle difference here.
The moment you let your goals be defined by other people’s standards, you begin to suffer. Because no matter how hard you try, others will always have their own opinion of how you ought to be doing things and what you need to be chasing in life.
An important component of achieving goals is the amount of control on your actions. As long as you are able to define your own standards and live upto them, you will succeed. But the moment you fall into the trap of pleasing others and begin to change your goals, you will be writing your own downfall.
“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins”
Perhaps the biggest reason why goals fail is fear. It is also easy to succumb to your fears and convince yourself that you are not good enough or that you will try next year.
The funny thing about fear is it grows stronger every moment you allow it to live. It thrives on inaction and doubt and makes you begin to doubt your own potential.
Don’t fall for it.
If you have set goals which are ambitious, allow them to take you to paths unexplored. Remind yourself that the very reason you set such audacious goals is because you wanted to conquer fear and move past your limitations.
Don’t let your failure in the past or dread of the future prevent you from taking action. Take inspiration from the steady ant which marches carrying food weighing thousand times its weight. Observe how it moves with absolute focus and overcoming all obstacles to reach its destination.
Such an attitude of calm mindfulness and continuous determination will definitely make your goals a reality.
Over to You
I hope that this advice helps you in beating some of those obstacles which stop you from achieving your goals. Remember the acronym SMART of goal setting? It’s popular because it works! So keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound.
Doing that and avoiding the extremes mentioned here will ensure you achieve almost all of your goals!