4 Reasons You’re Struggling with Goal Success
Giving up is the easy option. You’ve probably heard that before, but it is so true. When your muscles ache from a run the day before, that padded couch looks like heaven.
When you’ve done so well on a food journey, but you get bad news, the cake your co-worker brought in may seem like what you need to feel better. And sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you do need the couch or the cake.
But, It’s what you do next, after the fall, that matters.
So, let’s take a look at why you’re struggling with success in your goals. There are four things that may be preventing you from personal achievement, and it probably isn’t what you think.
You can find a plethora of information on the web about why resolutions fail. It may seem like the stars need to align just perfectly for successful goal completion, but the reality is that adjusting your behaviors is the key. There are many reasons why you may not be able to complete a goal.
Some people would tell you these are called excuses. Such a negative connotation comes with the word “excuse”—as if you aren’t allowed to have reasons for why it didn’t work out that day. But you can have excuses. And there are things in your life that will force you to take a break or miss a mark.
Most people may say fear is a primary reason for not achieving goals. Someone with anxiety, for example, may have trouble going to the gym. Or perhaps you fear failure, thinking it will prove you aren’t “good enough” or “capable.” In fact, fear of failure is a very real thing, and it’s one many people have no idea how to get over.
In my thinking on this specific fear, and other fears that prevent progression, I’ve watched a lot of videos and read a lot of articles. One thing that struck me was Tim Ferriss’ TED talk on fear. If you haven’t watched it, you can find it here. It’s only 13 minutes, but it is life changing.
In the video, Ferriss talks about stoicism. The dictionary defines the philosophy as “taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.” Boiled down (or maybe watered down), it is enduring through the ups and downs without emotional reaction.
Managing your responses is one of the keys to succeeding in goals…but more on that later. Let’s talk about why you may struggle with the very beginning parts of goal setting and achieving your milestones.
1. Short-term thinking
Thinking about the immediate has its uses. Like when it’s chilly outside, and so you grab a coat, so you don’t freeze on your way into work. The goal is to get to work without becoming a popsicle, catching pneumonia, or getting frostbite. The method for preventing this is dressing appropriately. You won’t need to wear your parka all night.
Imagine sitting in your living room with your boots and coat on trying to relax.
Not only will it look silly, but you’ll probably overheat because that immediate need is no longer relevant. Short-term thinking is like this. We see something we want or need and expect it instantly—or within a relatively quick amount of time.
The weight loss struggle is another example we can look at. If your goal is to lose weight, you are likely thinking about it in the short-term. “I want to lose X pounds in X days.” I believe this leads to one of the biggest problems with weight loss that causes people to gain weight again after they’ve achieved success in the numbers. If you have 40 more expected life years, and you plan to lose weight in one of them, that leaves 39 more years, or over 14,000 days, to maintain the success.
Healthy living isn’t about losing weight. And you’ve probably heard this before from all the gurus out there. They say, “it’s a lifestyle.” For our example, this rings true. Lifestyle. Life. It’s for life. The long-term. No one wants to lose weight temporarily. Get into shape and then back out. So, you have to plan for the long-term by making permanent changes to your diet that will stick with you throughout life.
That’s thinking long-term.
So, why does short-term thinking harm goal setting?
To be clear, we aren’t talking about setting short-term goals to reach a long-term goal. Saving to meet milestones so you can afford a trip to Rome, is not the same as short-term thinking. That is short-term goal setting.
Short-term thinking is an inability to see beyond the pressing concern or current state.
Imagine you’re training for a marathon. Every day you get up and run. But one day, you sit on the side of your bed, muscles aching, and you think about taking a break. Missing a single day won’t hurt. You’re looking for permission to skip the run, even though it is part of your training program and it will get you to your goal.
This is short-term thinking. In the long-term, you can seriously disrupt your training schedule by giving in to these thoughts. The power of discipline requires commitment and motivation to push through moments of vulnerability.
Giving in the first time makes it easier to give in the next time, and if you’re not careful, you will find your willpower slipping away along with your goal.
Long-term thinking recognizes that the natural pains that come with building muscle, stamina, and endurance is a necessary part of reaching that marathon goal. It is considering these moments of weakness and building in rest days to your training plan.
Essentially, short-term thinking can sabotage your ambitions by tricking you into thinking that “just this one time” will be okay to skip. It fails to alert you to the ways it will hinder your achievements, like how an extra cheat day can push your weight loss goal further away or procrastinating homework can make the end of your class more difficult when you have to try to catch up.
To help combat short-term thinking, take extra measures at the beginning of goal setting to determine areas of risk—moments where you will feel vulnerable or weak and want to cheat or quit. Try to preempt events, exhaustion, and other concerns by building your schedule around them.
Also, consider what you want to continue beyond the goal. Do you want to make running a daily part of your life? How can you incorporate this training into a healthier lifestyle? You can’t always avoid issues that will hinder your progress, but you can plan ahead to prevent short-term thinking from damaging your goal.