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5 Reasons You’re Not Reaching Your Goals

Just can’t seem to hit the targets you set for yourself? This might be why.
by Isabella Manych | Nov 26 2018

What personal goal are you currently working towards? Do you want to quit smoking? Start cooking fresh food regularly? Be on time more often?

Whatever your aim, it’s probably turned out to be more difficult than you thought. Why? Because you’re human and there are several common barriers to achieving our goals that many of us share. Let’s have a look at some reasons why you might not carry through with what you want to achieve.

1. Not enough time.

You simply don’t have the time, right? Wrong. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but lack of time is always a bad excuse. If you don’t have time for something, it’s most likely because you’ve prioritized something else. If there’s something that you truly want to do but haven’t been making time for, it might be time to reassess your priorities. Read on for some actual reasons.

1. That’s a problem for Future Me.

Humans are addicted to the now. We enjoy immediate pleasure so much more than the waiting and work required to reach a goal at some point in the future. As Ian Ayres explains in his book Carrots and Sticks rewards in the future are uncertain and we’d much rather have a bird in the hand.

2. Willingness to pay the price.

So, let’s say you try to quit smoking by promising to pay a two-dollar penalty for every cigarette you light. According to Ayres, this won’t work, because the punishment doesn’t outweigh the pleasure and simply adds a price tag to an action. You know smoking a cigarette would cost you two bucks – but it’s still an option.

3. Too many goals.

Not many of us confine ourselves to just one goal. It’s more likely that you want to tackle a few. Let’s imagine you want to start cooking fresh food five days a week, begin working out and also work towards that promotion. If you divide your attention too much, you’re less likely to achieve any of them. The key is to focus on one and concentrate all your efforts on it.

4. Unrealistic goals.

When you decide on the final goal you want to work towards, you need to make sure it’s small and therefore, realistic. Take a reality check. If your goal is to read two books each week, clock the time you need to read one page, multiply that by the pages of the books you want to read, and check whether you actually have that much time during the week. Don’t punish yourself as a result of not reaching a goal that was simply impossible in the first place.

5. Disinterest.

Do you really want to reach that goal, after all? Could it be someone else who wants you to quit smoking or look for a new job? If so, this might spoil your motivation to reach it. While it’s nice that you care how other people feel, it’s not going to do any good to your own sense of achievement and motivation. Build your goals around your own dreams.

Goals that are most likely to make you happy are those to do with social relationships, health and physical activity, generosity, learning, and mindfulness. Research shows that these are the factors most important to improving your wellbeing as Owain Service & Rory Gallagher make clear in Think Small.

What’s next?

Set yourself one goal that is precise, has a clear deadline, is realistic, and will make you happy. If you want to change a certain behavior, decide on a severe punishment that really stings, like donating $100 to a political enemy for every cigarette you light. It’s more effective if you tell your colleagues, friends, or partner, and place the money in a stamped, addressed envelope that’s ready to post. Try to think of your future self not as a separate entity, but as someone you want to be good to, and think about that version of you whenever you feel the need to give in to instant gratification. And finally, don’t blame time; it’s not an excuse.

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