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Five Popular Ways People Set Themselves up to Fail

June 18th, 2019

Have you ever considered the real COST to falling short of your goals?


The many studies that have been conducted on goal setting have varied considerably in scope, timeframes, data, and conclusions.  However, independent of whether the studied goals were small, big, short-term, long-term or BHAGs, all of the studies agree that only a very small percentage of those who set goals actually achieve them.


All the studies also agree that people who set goals achieve far greater levels of success than those that don’t.   Despite this finding, a recent study by Statistic Brain revealed that 17% of Americans infrequently set goals and 38% never do.    Hard to believe…


To top things off, even when including those people that set goals frequently, only 8% of the combined group follows through to achieve them.   In other words, 92% of people who set goals fail short, with most simply bailing out and abandoning the pursuit.


So what can be the cause of all of this failure?

Interestingly, the majority of people lose the game before it starts.  Most people that fail to achieve their goals do so before they even leave the gate.   They actually set themselves up for failure.


Here’s how they do it….: 


1.  They set ambiguous goals:  You’ve probably heard about SMART goals.  Although different people assign different meanings to the letters S, M, A, R, and T, the main point in the goal setting process is to be crystal clear about what you intend to achieve.   This means taking all of the subjectivity out of your goal by making it quantifiable within a specific timeframe.   Nothing should be left to interpretation.   If “Success” cannot be objectively defined and measured, it is time to re-do your goal.   Include key benchmarks so you can effectively assess progress and make appropriate adjustments.


2.  They set too many goals:  The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve the ones that are most important.  This is simple math.  You only have 24 hours in a day, so in order to do something, you likely need to stop doing something else.   If you are the kind of person that sets too many goals, list them all and prioritize, then consider removing the least impactful half of them (or at least the lower third).  And if you have a chronic problem of setting too many goals, find someone that can help.  After all, the alternative is to continue to spin your wheels and miss out on achieving the goals that are most important to you.


3.  They make conditional commitments (or don’t commit at all):  If a goal is important to you, you must go ALL-IN.    If you will not, don’t even bother.   “I’m going to try” is simply a way to avoid responsibility, and anything less than a total commitment will almost guarantee failure.   How often have you heard “I’m going to try to cut down on drinking..” or I’m gonna try to exercise more…”.   How does that typically work?   There are two types of people — those that try, and those that commit and succeed.   If you really want something, go for it.  If not, stop BS-ing yourself.


4.   They attempt to go it alone:  All great performers have an accountability partner.   A trained coach can be of great service here, but if you don’t have or want a trained, skilled coach, simply find a friend or colleague that will agree to check in with you on a consistent basis.   A check-in is NOT a long meeting.  Your partner’s main job here is to help keep your focus where it belongs - on the rails and away from distractions and chasing shiny objects.  Focused energy is one of the powerful forces in the world, so you want to make sure to focus your limited time, energy and actions toward achieving the vital goals that YOU have defined.  There is no magic here.  The more frequent you check-in, the better.  Daily is great, weekly is fine.


5.   They keep their goals and commitments private:  If you really want to achieve a goal you’ve set, tell everyone you know about your intentions.   A trusted peer group is spectacular here, because you certainly wouldn’t want to make commitments to valued associates that you will break.   And because they trust and care about you, they can provide you with the support, encouragement, insight, tough love, and perhaps some additional resources and short-cuts to help you exceed your goals.

But don’t stop there.  Tell everyone.   The more, the better.   Make your goals public!  After all, you’ve invested time and energy to determine the goals that are most important to you.   So it makes sense to do everything possible to ensure you achieve them.   Announce your new goals on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.   Social Contracts are a HUGE motivator.   Doing so will help you focus, which will dramatically increase your chance of success.   Use your peers to your advantage, and encourage them to use you as well.



By taking these simple steps, you will increase your chances of success by orders of magnitude.   By avoiding these five pervasive mistakes, you will remove more than 95% of the issues that contribute to missing a goal.   If you’ve been missing your goals by making any of these popular mistakes, I hope you will now enjoy setting yourself up for big wins and hope you will share your success stories.



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.