Why You Fail While Others Reach Their Goals11 August 2020 / By Kat Boogaard Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 11, 2020
You have plenty of goals you want to achieve. But, you’ll be the first to admit that you aren’t really making any progress.
Even worse? It feels like you’re being left behind. It’s as if you’re beginning a marathon and everybody else is whizzing past you at record speed—while you remain at the starting line with your feet stuck in the cement.
What gives? How come everybody else seems to be scoring these big wins while you stay in place? Let’s look at a few potential reasons.
1. You’re not actually motivated by your goal
Remember when you were a kid and your mom said that you had to clean your room by the end of the day? If you were anything like me, you did it because you felt like you had to—not because you were highly motivated by the idea of a clean room.
The goals you set as an adult are similar. If the end result of your goal doesn’t set your heart on fire, you’re probably not going to be that motivated to achieve it. This goes a long way in explaining why a whopping 92% of us never follow through on our New Year’s resolutions.
“If you need targets to bring in the energy and motivation, you’re probably doing something that’s not meaningful enough by itself,” writes Maarten van Doorn in his Medium article.
So, your first step should be to evaluate the goals you’ve set yourself. Are they something you’re truly passionate about? Or, do you simply feel a sense of obligation to set that objective?
You might surprise yourself. Maybe the reason you haven’t landed that promotion isn’t because you’re lazy or a poor performer, but because you really don’t care to take that next step up the proverbial career ladder. You’re pretty happy where you are.
2. You’re trying to do too many things at once
Having a lot of goals is admirable, but it can also sabotage your progress. That’s because multitasking makes you far more likely to leave a goal unfinished. You hop to the next ambition or shiny object before you’ve followed through on your current objective.
Perceiver personality types tend to fall victim to this more often than others. Since they love to take in new information and adapt, it’s easy for them to get distracted and thrown off course.
Make a conscious effort to relentlessly pursue a single goal at a time. You’ll prevent yourself from feeling spread so thin, and also boost your chances of actually fulfilling your objective—before moving on to the next one.
3. You’re outlining goals, but not action plans
Thinking of goals is easy. Following through on them is the tricky part. Unfortunately, too many people identify goals, but they never think through the actionable steps they’ll take to make them happen.
When you think of something you’d really like to achieve, you can’t just stop at outlining your objective. You need to go a step further and map out an action plan. What tasks will you complete? By what deadline?
Especially for large goals, it’s helpful to break them into these smaller steps. Not only does this make the entire process more manageable, it also boosts your motivation to actually accomplish what you set out to.
Why? It all comes back to the progress principle. Recent research proves that, of all of the things that can boost your mood and perceptions during the workday, the most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Breaking your goal into these smaller chunks also gives you more regular opportunities to achieve small wins and receive positive feedback—which has been proven to provide even more intrinsic motivation. How’s that for piling on the ambition?
4. You’re paying too much attention to competition
Let’s return to the marathon anecdote. Most people who run marathons don’t concern themselves with other runners. They’re solely focused on finishing the course or setting a personal record.
You should apply a similar attitude to your own goals. You need to stop paying attention to what other people are doing (which can be admittedly challenging for highly-competitive personality types like ENTJs).
Competition can be scary—and research shows that if we perceive that a lot of other people are trying to do the same thing, we back off from our own goal and put in minimal effort. It’s a form of ego preservation where we “win by not losing.”
Put simply, paying too much attention to your competition might mean that you take yourself out of the running in pursuit of your own goals. Stay focused on your own progress and avoid the comparison trap. It doesn’t add any value.
Stop self-sabotaging and achieve your goals
You’re tired of staying stuck at the starting line. It’s disheartening to watch everybody else celebrate their victories while it seems like your own goals are still miles away.
There are a number of reasons that could explain why your goals remain far-away fantasies. And, your first step should be to identify exactly what is sabotaging your progress.
Use this as your guide to pinpoint your own problem—and then you’re ready to navigate around that pitfall and put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly that finish line isn’t quite so far away.
Lyncia Jean (not verified) says...
Okay so it's crazy how I feel this article is seeing right through me and calling out my bullshit.
Samantha G. (not verified) says...
"Win by not losing" ... this really reached me. This is probably the only site I'd read a post like this and I'm so glad I did! Thanks for this serendipitous piece.
FaithW (not verified) says...
This article is definately calling me out on my bs, letting me know I'm doing too much while getting nothing done. I love the marathon analogy "focus on finishing" and "stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing". My focus goal is renewed. Thanks, great article!