8 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Have Trouble Achieving Your Goals
Lots of people set goals. Very few people actually achieve them.
Why is that? What separates the quitters from the achievers?
It’s probably not what you think.
Many people think the difference comes down to willpower or sheer persistence. Those are important qualities, for sure, but it’s much more than that. Achieving significant goals requires a mastery of all three steps in the following process:
With this in mind, you have to ask yourself: How likely is it you’re going to complete a goal if you haven’t first selected the right goal, that will actually deliver the outcome you want, and implemented the right strategies to obtain it?
In other words, our completion rate of goals, given our lack of understanding on how to create goals in the first place, is actually pretty commendable. And we can drive those numbers much higher if we focus on getting the first part of the process right from the get go.
Of course, you’re probably not starting this process for the first time, are you? Chances are you already have a few goals already on the books. So let’s put them through the goal-setting wringer, shall we?
Below are 8 questions you should ask yourself before narrowing down which goals to commit to. These questions will give you a general idea if you have a goal that will propel you forward or just hold you back (and make you feel rather lousy about yourself in the process).
1. Is there a finite end to this goal?
Sometimes in our attempt to acquire a new (and healthier) habit, we choose a goal that can never be fully achieved. Popular goals in this category are things like writing everyday or going to the gym three times a week. It sounds great, at the beginning. But not only are you more likely to be overwhelmed by a never ending goal, but it robs you of the joy of ultimately accomplishing it. Nothing says a single goal has to last all year. If you really want to go to the gym three times a week, maybe set a goal for just the next week. When that goal is complete, you can set it again or re-evaluate if that’s the right goal for your needs. Either way, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and your ability to follow-through. These shorter-term goals are actually what many elite athletes use to drive better and more consistent performance.
2. Does your goal address what you want to do or what you think you should do?
It’s hard to overstate how much our goals are influenced by the opinions of others. Is losing weight really important to you, or is it something you feel you “should” do, based on society’s expectations? Do you really want to write a book with ever fiber of your being, or does gracing the shelves of your local book store somehow feel more worthy than spending time on another craft project? While it’s not impossible to follow-through on a goal driven by a should, it’s a lot harder than one driven by your own personal definition of success.
3. Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
Related to #2 is the why behind your goal choice. Many of us imagine our goals will produce some sort of life-changing result upon accomplishment. You tell yourself you’ll improve your health if you run a marathon. Or you’ll stop worrying about money if you hit a certain income target. But can those goals really deliver the outcomes you want? The truth is, an awful lot of goals are driven by ego. And the satisfaction you get from ego-based goals, even if accomplished, is usually short-lived. A better approach is to start with the real why, and then brainstorm goals that have a much better chance of producing the end result you want.
4. How challenging will it be to accomplish this goal?
There are two schools of thought here. One says to pick goals that stretch you without overwhelming you. The other says to choose goals so ridiculously high that you have almost no chance of achieving them the first time around, but make it more likely that you’ll accomplish more than you would if you’d set more “realistic” goals. I suspect different people will find one approach more appealing and motivating than the other.
5. Are you willing to do what it takes to accomplish this goal?
It’s so easy to be seduced by an outcome, but when we get down to the details of what’s required, we may realize we’re not as enamored as we initially believed. For example, a friend once told me she wanted to compete in a body building competition, but she really wasn’t all that motivated to maintain the diet and training she’d need to become competitive. At that point in time, at least, she knew she wasn’t committed to the process. So she decided to shelve the goal until she felt willing to dedicate herself to both. Sometimes just visualizing what’s required to accomplish the goal can help you determine if this is something you’re truly committed to … or not.
6. Does the very idea of this goal sound fun?
You’re much more likely to complete a goal that sounds fun than one that requires a lot of discipline. For example, I have a number of ongoing challenges I’m pursuing with my personal trainer. But the one I achieved the quickest, and without feeling like I was expending any discipline, was a goal to balance on top of an exercise ball. It wasn’t easy by a long shot, but I always looked forward to practicing. I’ve been working on my pull-up goal a lot longer and haven’t made nearly as much progress.
7. Are there any negative consequences to not completing this goal?
It may seem like a bonus if there are no negative consequences for failing to complete your goal, but that also indicates very little is at stake. And if you don’t have anything at stake, what will compel you to continue when the going gets tough? You can probably generate negative consequences for any goal, but they also have to be real. For example, I’d been resolving to cut back on sugar for years. Diabetes ran in my family after all. But as long as my lab results were okay, the negative consequence seemed … remote. And so I’d do a sugar detox for 30 days, and then fall right back into my old habits. As soon as I got diagnosed with diabetes, however, I had no problem cutting my carbs.
For your goal, try rating your non-completion on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “what a bummer” and 10 being “utter personal catastrophe.” If your goal doesn’t at least hit a 7, rethink if you’ll stay committed.
8. Have you set this goal before and failed?
Just because you’ve failed at a goal previously doesn’t mean you can’t set it again. If you’ve learned from your mistakes, you might actually be much more likely to succeed this time around. But it’s still worth asking: what will make this time different? Sometimes a very small change in any step of the process (picking a goal, choosing a strategy, or follow-through) can produce a dramatic difference in the outcome.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Your goals really just set the vision. In order to turn those goals into reality, you’re going to need exceptional strategies and follow-through.
And it’s strategy and follow-through that trip most people up. Let’s face it, distraction, doubt, and a lack of willpower are enough to sabotage most people’s dreams.
But they don’t have to. When I got serious about my health, I hired a personal trainer to make my workouts more effective and non-negotiable. When I got tired of poor profits in my business, I hired a coach who helped me quadruple the amount I paid myself every month.
Now, whenever there’s something really important to me, I hire someone to help me do it better, faster, or in some cases, at all. I’ve finally realized that slogging it out on my own isn’t admirable, it’s just unnecessarily agonizing.
The problem is that those kinds of investments are out of reach for a lot people. But their goals and dreams aren’t any less worthy.
So I created a new program called Move the Needle that helps people determine the highest impact activity that will move them forward, and then holds their feet to the fire to make sure it gets done … for a price almost anyone can afford.
Some people are wired to simply be content with where they are, and don’t need or want a push. I admire that.
But for me, I know challenge and growth are an important part of who I am. And I’m not ashamed to admit I perform better when being held accountable. If you’re the same way, I hope you’ll take a look at my Move the Needle program. I’d love to help you fast track your most important accomplishments.
As I like to say: don’t give up on the dream. Get better at getting it done.