An inconvenient truth is that very few people actually stick to our annual goals, but despite track records littered with failure, we try it every year, naively believing this year will be different!
But: We then go about pursuing our goals in exactly the same way, making all the same mistakes we’ve made in the past and setting ourselves up for more failure in the process.
The good news: All you need to do is change how you go about achieving your goals by giving more thought to how you pursue them. Specifically, there are five common mistakes people make which set them up for failure. Once you know what these are and how to avoid them you will be much more likely to succeed:
1. Having Too Many Goals.
Most people’s list of goals is as long as a five-year-old’s list for Santa. Yes, there may be many things you would like to change about your life but change, especially when it concerns habits, is hard enough. Choose one or two at the most and decide which you will focus on first.
2. Undefined or Unrealistic Goals.
One of the ways we tend to fail is to list goals that are either too vague, such as, “Be kinder to strangers!” or “Be more patient with the kids!” or too unlikely, such as “Write a best-selling novel!” and “Make a viral video!” Resolutions that are not specific and realistic tend to be overwhelming. To be successful you need to break down your goals into steps you have a greater likelihood of completing, such as, “Join a local charity,” “Read a book about parenting,” “Join a writing group,” or “Make one video a month and increase my YouTube followers.”
3. No Clear Timetable.
One of the most common omissions people make when it comes to goals is neglecting to specify when they'll start. With no start date and no timetable thereafter, the likelihood of you not starting at all (or making poor progress if you do) is pretty high. Decide on a clear start date and when you plan to achieve specific milestones along the way.
4. Insufficient Planning.
Most goals actually require quite a bit of planning. For example, resolving to go to the gym four times a week is great, but unless you figure out how and when you will get there, it’s unlikely to happen. Do you require babysitting? Do you have to share the car? Can you count on leaving work on time? Does it fit into your schedule? If you want to be successful, you have to answer all of these kinds of questions ahead of time and then plan accordingly.
5. Neglecting to Anticipate Hurdles.
Being unprepared to deal with the hurdles and setbacks we are bound to encounter along the way will quickly sabotage any efforts we make at self-improvement. If you tend to keep to your diet for the first two weeks but fall off it thereafter; if you tend to break new habits when work suddenly gets busy; if you tend to start projects but not finish them, you can probably anticipate some of the hurdles and setbacks you are likely to encounter. Therefore, before you begin, take the time to figure out how you'll manage setbacks when they occur. For example, you might need to build in incentives as well as strategies to avoid temptation on Week 3 of your diet. You might need to plan writing time on weekends when work gets busy so you can keep making progress on your novel, and you might need to build in reminders and accountability for completing the garage clean-up past the half way point, as you tend to lose motivation when it “looks better” but is not yet complete.
Addressing these five common failure points ahead of time will maximize you likelihood of success. Remember, the price of failure is not just not reaching your goal but also how your lack of success impacts your self-esteem, your thinking, and your perceptions going forward.