It's always a bummer when you start off with the best intentions but don't reach a goal. Whether it’s saving up for something or planning for your business or schooling — anything that ends in a bust is disappointing. And a lot of the times the reasons why we don't reach our goals are hard to determine exactly. Often times, the oversight is so very obvious that it's right in front of us, but we miss it anyway.
And that's the thing — most of the times it's because of little mistakes that we get derailed and fall off of the tracks. Think back to the last plan that didn't get fulfilled: Did you plan it to a tee, or did you just leave it at some lofty goal that you plan on reaching sometime or other? Without a proper game of attack, it's hard to cross the finish line.
But the nice thing is that just because you failed doesn’t mean you can try again. The important thing is to know exactly what went wrong, and to make sure you have a plan on how to avoid it the next time or fix it. Here are seven reasons why you're not reaching your goals (and how to fix them.)
1. You're Not Specific Enough
Sometimes when we think of a goal, we keep it general and trust that we can handle achieving it with minimum information. But if we don't know the specifics, how will we know when we've succeeded...or if we're falling behind? According to Mardee Handler at Wise Bread, a money-saving website, "...'I want to make more money,' and 'I want to learn how to cook' are...too vague. How will you know what steps to take to reach those goals — or when you've achieved them?"
Instead, write down exactly what you want to do, and don't rely on generalizations. Those are hard to measure and, as a result, are hard to plan for. For example, say your goal is taking a vacation this year. Instead of leaving it at that, change your goal to saving $700 by January and booking it by February. That way you have clear deadlines, you have solid numbers, and you have a way to measure your progress.
2. You're Not Managing Your Time Well Enough
You might have a goal in mind and have a clear deadline and plan on how to achieve it, but the problem is you just don't have the time to work on it. The thing is though that you do. You're just not making it a priority. According to Mardee Handler at Wise Bread, "Here's a fact: Everyone starts out on equal footing, with the same 24 hours in every day...But you may have more control than you realize. How you prioritize all the things in your 'want-to' basket will determine when and how you fit them into your busy schedule."
Just think of all those times you crashed on the couch for a Netflix marathon or decided to go out for happy hour drinks instead of being productive. Granted, we all need a little relaxation, so if you truly feel like your schedule can't fit an extra action item, just wake up earlier and work on your goal in baby steps then. To solve this problem you need to begin making your goal a priority, and the best way to do it is to schedule it in your to-do list. Open up your planner and physically write it down as a weekly or daily task. Seeing it pop up with the rest of your important, gotta-finish-it activities will hold you accountable to do it.
3. You Have Unrealistic Expectations
Now I'm not one to tell you not to shoot for the stars, just maybe shoot for the moon first. According to Sarah Gehrke, "This is one of the common reasons people never reach their goals...your goals need to be attainable. If you are setting a goal of getting a job for only two weeks to do so, you are setting yourself up for failure. When deciding on a goal, ensure it is realistic — a goal within your control. Make sure you actually can reach the goal in a time frame you set for yourself."
A way to fix this misstep is to be honest with what you can handle. Taking your time on making progress is perfectly fine; after all, Rome wasn't built in a day. To keep your expectations in check, break up your project into a series of mini goals and see if you're able to keep up with them in a timely manner.
Say you're looking to find a better job in two months. First, see if it's realistic to expect that time-frame. Maybe with your busy schedule, it'll take closer to four months? Second, break up that goal into a series of tasks that will help you achieve it within that time. For example, write "send out resume" into your to-do list every other day, and "follow up on interviews" once a week on Fridays. Ensuring you have a plan set down that keeps your deadline in mind will help you manage your expectations and keep them realistic.
4. There's No Deadline
A common mistake we make when setting up goals is to not give ourselves an end date. It just becomes this forever-running project; one we'll achieve "some day." If you don't have the pressure of a deadline, though, how will you keep yourself accountable? According to lifestyle blogger Allison at Frugal on the Prairie, "Expectations often become realities through hard work and deadlines. You wouldn’t hand 20 3rd graders science homework and say, 'Just get it back to me whenever.'"
So give yourself an end time! Make sure it's realistic, but write that sucker down in your calendar. The closer you get to it, the more motivated you'll be to keep working.
5. You're Spending Too Much Time On Research
Sometimes when we're working towards a goal, we fall into perfectionist mode and want to make sure we take the right and most efficient steps to get there. That or we're scared to start and fall back on research as a productive excuse not to begin. According to Mardee Handler, "In today's day and age, we can spend hour after hour researching the best way to get out of debt, become a master chef, search for a better job, lose weight, or learn how to snowboard. But at a certain point, the research becomes useless if not put into action. Research prepares you, but action leads to results."
An easy fix to this hitch is to give yourself a start date. It's as simple as that. You can gather as much information as you want, but make sure the studying stops on X date. That way you'll be both prepared and moving forward.
6. You Didn't Write That Sucker Down
Goals, no matter how well planned out for, can sometimes seem unattainable. They're there to better our lives, but it's hard to imagine yourself at that next level when you're so used to being in your current situation. Because of that, we have a tendency to dismiss them and put them on the back burner because, real talk, will we ever actually reach them? According to lifestyle blogger Allison at Frugal on the Prairie, "Taking pen to paper (or computer ink to computer paper) will sometimes trick our brains into thinking our goals are more realistic. You can hang them up above your desk or on your refrigerator. They act as a constant reminder of who you want to be, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there."
So write your goal down! Put it on a sticky note, and put that note on your mirror where you'll see it every day. Turn it into inspiration, into something encouraging and fun, and you'll be more excited to stick with it. If you want to go on a trip, print out a picture of your destination and put it on your fridge. If you want to grow your business, tack up your goal at your desk. Little reminders like that will make your lofty ideas into realistic places you're headed towards.
7. You Lost Your Momentum
Once you start making some serious progress on your goal, it sometimes happens that you feel like you can cut back a little and relax. You've earned it after all; how much damage can taking a week off do? Um, a lot. According to George P.H. at The Change Blog, "The problem is, thinking this way gives you an excuse to slack off. Your mind always wants you to make as little effort as necessary. Once you have a sense of accomplishment, there’s little motivation to keep going. So don’t relax. Always commit to keep going until you reach success – and make an effort to maintain it when you have it."
The quick fix for this? Don't allow yourself any major gaps! Keep that momentum going. Be conscious of the fact that if you stop, you can derail the whole thing. If you feel like you're burning out and need a break, then schedule it in and have a specific startup date in mind. That way this isn't something that'll turn indefinite, but is all part of the plan towards success.
And most importantly, remember: You can do this; keep at it!