Why Can’t I Achieve My Goals?

I heard some advice the other day that completely changed my perspective on goal setting and achievement. I feel like I finally understand why I sometimes don’t achieve my goals.

I was listening to an audio program by Brian Tracy called 21 Secrets of Millionaires. All of the secrets were valuable and useful bits of advice, but it was the final one that really got my attention. It was one of those nuggets that are so fundamental they hit you like you were slapped in the face.

Before I tell you what Brian Tracy said, consider this question: Why do people sometimes fail when they set a goal? Goal setting is exciting, right? You glimpse a vision of a better future and that lights a fire in you. It creates a momentum that propels you through the first few days and the first few actions. If you’re lucky and you see some progress early on, the excitement builds. And as you keep making progress, you keep pushing on until you eventually reach your goal. Right? This is how it works for you every time, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Of course not. If it was that easy, then we’d all be in great shape, have lots of money, be in loving and passionate relationships, and enjoy our jobs.

What’s the reality? Soon after we take that first action toward our goals (maybe even as soon as the next day), the novelty of the goal wears off. And even if we somehow manage to push on past this initial stage, we eventually stumble. Something we didn’t expect happens and trips us up, and our forward momentum STOPS. Maybe we even get knocked back a few steps. At this point, many of us get discouraged. “Man, why can’t I ever catch a break? This always happens to me. I might as well quit.” We look at all of the time (and/or money, and/or energy) we’ve wasted and we give up. We come to the false conclusion that a setback equals a failure. Or worse, we don’t even make a conscious choice to quit. We just get distracted by something more “urgent.”

Can you relate to this? I know I can. My life through my late twenties was a pattern of setting goals and then either quitting or getting distracted as soon as things got difficult. As a result, I’ve spent quite a bit of energy since then conditioning myself to persist in those moments of difficulty. It can be a struggle to muster up determination in the face of adversity, but I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten pretty good at it. What was so shocking to me about what Brian Tracy had to say is that much of that struggle is totally and completely unnecessary.

Here’s what he said, in his exact words:
“Resolve in advance that you will never give up, no matter what happens.”

Why is that advice so profoundly important? You see, obstacles, setbacks, distractions, challenges, and crises are inevitable. You WILL face them. Do you wish to face them unprepared or with a firm resolve to never give up? If you wait until something happens before you muster up your determination, you risk being too overwhelmed by doubt and fear. But here’s the good news. When you expect the unexpected, and you’ve already resolved in advance that you will persist anyway, what was once a negative now becomes a positive. An unexpected obstacle now becomes a test of your determination, an opportunity for you to show the world (and yourself) just how creative and determined you are.

In working with my clients in my coaching practice, I’ve noticed that some people have tremendous success achieving the goals they set, while others seem to fizzle out within days. Although I could sense an important difference between the two types of people even before they took the first step, I couldn’t quite put it into words. Now I can:

Those who succeeded made a commitment right from the start to persist no matter what. They might not have spoken that commitment out loud, and they might not even have been conscious that they’d made it, but they made it just the same.

Your persistence in the face of adversity, more than anything else, will set the course for your life. It is a reflection of your self-esteem and self-confidence, and it goes to the core of who you are and what you will become.

Put this advice into practice right now. What goal have you been struggling to achieve? Make a commitment right now to achieve that goal no matter what obstacles might come your way! Resolve to persist no matter what!

©2005 Curtis G. Schmitt

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