According to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals never actually achieve them. But, you probably don’t need a study to “tell” you that. A brief look in the rear-view mirror of your life is all you need to know that setting goals is a lot easier than achieving them.

Setting goals usually comes with a lot of excitement about what you anticipate will be on the “other side” of the goal. But that excitement can often be dimmed once you bump up against an obstacle or two.

Today’s piece isn’t intended to make you feel bad about the momentum you may have lost with your goals and resolutions just since the first of the year. Nor is it intended to make you feel self-conscious about those past goals you didn’t achieve or resolutions you didn’t keep.

Instead, I want to use this space to share suggestions on what you can do to not fall into the 92% camp this year — and beyond. Or, to regroup if you already have.

But, let’s first address the “usual” reasons why you/we tend to lose momentum, anyway. Because, once you are able to spot the obstacles as they start to emerge, you can then more proactively create an alternative response.  

Four Reasons You Lose Momentum

 You have a vague timeline

When you look at the goals you’ve set for yourself, your family and your career (business), do you have a timeline associated with them? Whether that is measured in terms of when it will be complete in full or in stages. Or, are you operating with a “someday” date?

It can be especially tempting to resist putting a date on some goals when the magnitude of the goal itself or the process of achieving it looms large and feels out of your scope of control. But this is when any date is better than simply having an intention without a target end date.

You expect smooth sailing

I know some people don’t like thinking about what could go wrong when it comes to achieving their goals. For them, doing so often feels akin to having a scarcity mindset, or preparing to fail.

I disagree. I believe that considering potential pitfalls is the best way to develop a plan for dealing with those times when things don’t go as planned. Because the question is never “if” things will go sideways; it is a matter of “when” and “to what degree.”

Whenever you set a goal, you’re declaring you want something in or about yourself, your family or career (business) to change, to be different. And change always comes with a bit of resistance, which usually shows up as a few bumps in the road – some you’ll be prepared for; others will catch you by surprise.

The journey to achieving your goal is never a straight, uninterrupted line. This is why it is important to remember that goal setting isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor.

You are impatient

Not anticipating potential pitfalls is just as challenging as expecting to see results – stat! Just because you aren’t immediately seeing the fruits of your labor in time, energy, attention and focus doesn’t mean that your “process” isn’t working. It may simply mean more time is needed before things manifest.

Tracking your effort (and not just your results) and managing your expectations in this regard is how you avoid prematurely interpreting slow for stop.

You are unprepared for success

I know it may seem crazy to bring this up. After all, if you’ve set a goal and are taking the steps to achieve it, you’re prepared for success, right?! Not so fast.

When you’re working on your goal, a good chunk of your time is spent planning and strategizing how to make the goal real. Less time tends to be spent on preparing for the success that comes from achieving the goal. It’s one of the reasons I always ask clients questions like, “How will you know?” and “How will you feel?”

Taking a moment to envision what success may look and feel like is how you prepare for it. It’s how you’ll recognize when you’re “there” and when you’ll know it is time to celebrate your accomplishment.

The invitation

Some people consider goal setting as the process – rather than as part of the process.

It’s a distinction worth noting. Because when you view it as part of the process, you are more likely to adopt a holistic perspective and approach. Doing this makes it easier to identify when one of the four ways noted above are emerging and may pose a risk of getting in the way of you achieving your goals.

This is when it also helps to remember an important truth about goals: they are about behavior and habits. Therefore, when things get in the way of you achieving your goals, it doesn’t mean you failed. Nor does it mean a temporary pause needs to become a permanent stop. Instead, it’s an invitation.

It’s an invitation to:

  • Get clear (again) about the reason behind your goal.
    Remembering why you want to achieve something can be a key form of motivation – especially when the day-to-day grind of working on your goal gets challenging and/or discouraging.
  • Release the need to be a perfectionist.
    Strive for excellence, always. But waiting for the “perfect” moment of inspiration, environment, or some other condition before you take action means you’re not making progress. And not only does this slow you down, it may prevent you from discovering new ideas and opportunities.
  • Embrace the “small.”
    I’m known for saying “small is the new significant” precisely because I believe small steps (effort), over time, add up to big results. Small steps are also beneficial because they build up your “belief” muscle that you can accomplish this thing you’re working toward. Small steps either lead to small fails or small wins. Small “fails” help you see sooner rather than later when you need to course-correct, whilst small “wins” help to increase your confidence.

So, when things get in the way of you achieving your goals, don’t get mad. Get curious.

Get curious about what’s interrupting your flow and momentum, why, and why is it happening now. Get curious about what you’re being invited to do next.​

Because whatever may be your goals for this year and beyond, they aren’t just about the outcome for which you are striving. They are also about the behavior and habits that are shaping who you are becoming as you proceed through the process. That’s why it is important to remember that achieving your goals takes courage!

So, let this post be a reminder that going from the familiarity of your current reality -> through a murky, unknown terrain -> to a new reality is not for the faint of heart. This is why goal setting is easy, but why achieving your goals is really an act of courage.

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