Why we fail to reach our goals
Most people in the world have dreamed at one point or another. And invariably each one of us falls short again and again. Some people manage to pick themselves up and pull success out of miserable failure, while most of us give up. That is why I’m writing this post on why we fail to reach our goals, because knowing why we fail can help us succeed.
1. Choosing comfort over happiness:
Everyone has a comfort level, a place where they aren’t challenged by anything and where they feel at equilibrium. The problem is when we mistake comfort for happiness. Philosophers talk about it as the pleasure pain principle. People are motivated by either wanting to avoid pain or by seeking pleasure. Comfort is where people go to avoid pain. The problem is, comfort stifles growth, and limits potential. It keeps us from doing or becoming that which makes us better.
On the other hand, pleasure or happiness/fulfillment/joy is what happens when we break through our fears and seek something better even if it means discomfort. The people who accomplish the most in life generally are willing to sacrifice their comfort to gain happiness. In this case, that means choosing physical exercise and lifestyle changes to have more energy and a better quality of life.
2. Fear of failure:
One of the worst things we can do is to let fear get in the way. It is one of the most common reasons why we fail to reach our goals. This is a terrible, paralyzing force that, when left unchallenged, can keep us from even our fondest dreams. In his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki teaches us that the problem with the education system is that it punishes us for the wrong answer and rewards us for the right answer. We are taught that we need to get the right answer or we will be punished.
Our success is determined by our grade and our grade is generally dictated by a series of tests where we have to get the right answer. Answer correctly and you get an A. Way to go, you are a smart, capable, successful person. Answer incorrectly too often and you are a D or F student, a failure, dropout, etc… This sort of mentality teaches us that failing is bad, but really, failure is a vital part of life.
Without failure, and overcoming failure, the world would be a very different place. The famous story is that it took Thomas Edison 9,999 failed attempts at the electric light bulb before he got it right. Michael Jordan only made 50% of his shots, and Abraham Lincoln failed at just about everything he did till he became one of the most respected presidents in American history.
Whatever else, if the fear of failure is paralyzing you, just remember
UNTIL YOU FAIL YOU CAN NEVER SUCCEED.
Failure is just a part of success and the stepping stone to achieving your goals.
3. Linear Thinking:
Dr. Seuss wrote a short story about two creatures called zax who walked in opposite directions. They found themselves nose to nose blocking each others path and, as neither would go left or right, the two remained stuck there, yelling at the other to move. Obstacles are like this sometimes. There seems to be only one path with a big zax standing in the way, with no way around.
Have you ever done this? Have you ever started on a project only to discover there is something standing in the way? As a podiatrist I see lots of people who can’t walk. Some of them say, “I can’t walk so I can’t work out,” only seeing the path ahead, blocked by the obstacle. Others say, “well, I’ve still got my arms, I can still use a wheelchair/crutches/etc…” or “maybe I can swim.” These others realize that yes, things are not ideal, but then again, they may never be ideal. They look at the zax in front of them and realize that maybe, just maybe there is a way around.
Now, there are instances where a person is unable to do much at all because of health constraints, but in these cases diet can do amazing things to decrease fat, improve cholesterol, and improve energy and overall health. But, before you think you’re one of these exceptions, remember that these exceptions are VERY rare, and most people can remain physically active to some degree most of the time.
4. Seeking for excuses/procrastination:
In my work as a podiatrist I hear a lot of “I know I’m overweight, but with my foot problem I can’t walk. If I could walk I’d lose the weight.” Do you know what happens when I fix their foot problem? Most of the time I see them months later, even bigger than before. This is because (among other reasons) they used the foot problem as an excuse not to work out. As soon as the foot was fixed they had a new health complaint, or scheduling excuse, or some other reason why they could not work out.
I honestly believe that many of these people wholly believed their excuses. As sad as it sounds, they were sabotaging their health and wellbeing without even knowing they were the ones doing it.
This is similar to linear thinking, but with a catch. In linear thinking the obstacle is real, the problem is figuring out how to work around it. However, when seeking excuses you don’t come up against an obstacle, you often go out of your way, pick the obstacle up and place it in front of yourself.
How do you tell the difference?
The way to tell if you’re seeking for an excuse is simple, ask yourself “is (the excuse) really keeping me from my goal? if it is, then what can I do to work around it? Try coming up with a reasonable solution. Are you able to take steps to work around it? If so, then this is a case of linear thinking and congratulations you just overcame it. On the other hand, if you immediately find (or within a short time of starting the new workaround) a new reason why you can’t do the new plan, then you are likely finding obstacles and sabotaging yourself.
How do you fix this?
The reasons for self sabotage are varied, but the solution is generally to keep your focus on your goal. Remember why you made the goal, why it is so important. When you do this often the so called obstacle or distraction goes away on it’s own.
I know a lady who used family needs as her excuse. She had good intentions but invariably one of her kids (they were adults) would want her to watch the grand kids or give someone a ride somewhere or, if not a kid, there was always a neighbor or member of her local church that “needed” her. She would complain how these things kept her from being able to consistently work out, but she kept putting these other distractions in the way of taking care of herself.
There will always be distractions. However, we can’t let them be the reason why we fail to reach our goals.
5. Poor time/energy management:
This is another big reason why we fail to reach our goals. We each have many different demands on our time and energy and so most of us struggle with this. A well used example is to take a jar. If you have large rocks, small rocks, sand, and water next to the jar, how do you fit them all in? Which goes first? The answer is the big rocks have to go first, then the small rocks, then the sand, and last the water.
How does this relate to time/energy management? The jar is our capacity, the big rocks are the big, important things in our lives, the small rocks are less important, the sand less, and the water is little things like watching TV and checking Facebook. If you start your day by scrolling Facebook, or checking other social media sites you may end up filling your jar with water so that there isn’t enough time left for all the other thing. Keep an eye out as I plan on adding a post regarding techniques for better time management in the next month or two.
One example of inappropriate time/energy management is the “weekend warrior” or New Years Resolution problem. We get grand ideas of how we’re going to change our lives, we set unrealistic goals, and after a week, a day, or even less, we become overwhelmed and give up.
This is why it is important to start small. It is a principle Valerie taught me called “underwhelming” yourself. If you do less than you think you can handle and you’ll always want more. If you do more than you think you can handle you’ll feel like a failure and give up. Remember that the goal here is to make small habits that will change your life, not giant leaps ending in a faceplant.
While there are other reasons why we fail to reach our goals, these are the ones I’ve encountered the most often. If you find that you’re having trouble making and keeping your goals, take a moment to see if any of these are what’s holding you back.
While writing this I came across another good article which mirrored mine quite well, as well as adding more insight.