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Top 5 Reasons Your Goals Fail (and What to Do to Succeed Instead)

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If you’re finding yourself among the 88% of people who have already failed their New Year’s Resolutions by the first week of February, you are obviously not alone!

If you’re wondering, “Why the heck can’t I stick to my goals?”, and bummed that you didn't stick to your resolution (yet again) this year, it's not too late to take corrective action and get back on track.

So let’s take a look into the top reasons your goals failed, and what to do to succeed instead.


1. You were being basic.

No, I’d never call you basic, but your’s a little uninspiring. Is your goal to “get healthy” or “in shape?” Do you want to “achieve a better work-life balance?”

I admire your desire for improving your life, but these are all really vague goals that don't really give enough specifics into WHAT you are wanting to achieve. When setting goals for your life, you want to be as specific as possible. When you use vague terms, you make it harder to achieve them because they are not a fixed end result.

It’s like signing up for a race then getting there on race day and realizing you have no idea where the finish line is. Without a specific end, you’ll never start that race, let alone reach your goal.


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So let’s put some specific details into the goals I mentioned.

What does “healthy” or “in shape” mean to you? I will walk or run X number of days per week. The more specific the better...each walk or run will consist of X minutes at minimum. And one more time for how these goals will be completed: I will do this (on a treadmill, outdoors, gym, etc).

Now, let’s do the other example of “achieving a better work-life balance.”

I will give myself X minutes of meditation time to wind down from the stress from work when I come home. I will do this on X days during the week. I will do this in (my meditation space, special cozy chair, bedroom, etc.).

And better yet, attaching a “why” to your goals will make it that much more powerful of a goal. Adding in an emotional attachment to the goal such as “I’m doing it because I want to spend more quality time with my family” is an amazing reason to want to do either of these things. Figuring out your “why” will help you grow attachment to the goal, making you more driven to see it through.

When we put such specific details into our goals, we give ourselves something to actually strive for. You would never begin running in a race before knowing where the finish line is, but essentially, when we don’t set specific goals for ourselves, this is what we are doing. By being as specific as possible, you are giving yourself a better chance at successfully achieving your life goals.

And speaking of racing...

2. You signed up for a marathon, but you started at a sprint pace.

I that you’ve got this specific goal you’ve set out for yourself, you’re so gung-ho about it, you’re actually you’re doing more! While at first glance this could be great: you’re just absolutely crushing it like the boss lady you are! However, doing too much, too fast, can be the precursor to failure.

When you go after things in sprint-style motion, you are priming yourself for burnout. Let me ask you, is your goal something that you want to achieve and then go back to your old ways? Or do you want to find out at the finish line you’ve adopted this new outlook on life into your regular, natural routine? If you want real change to happen, it doesn’t happen overnight.

I know we are living in an age of instant gratification. When we have an obscure question, google will get us the answer instantly. When we want some takeout, it arrives hot at our door. When we want to watch the latest movie, Netflix is only a click away.

We can get practically anything at a moment’s notice. So you might not want to hear that you should take your time, but there’s a reason you can’t just order up yourself a “I’m Healthy Now” box.

Habits take time to form. Take baby steps. Set your goals out in smaller, more achievable steps so you can more easily note your progress. Set short-term and long-term goals that will lead to your bigger end result.

If these are habits that are a part of a lifestyle that you want in the future, by doing those actions now (even the small steps to begin with), you are literally already being your future self, living that lifestyle. Think about that for a moment. When you achieve your goals, day by day, you already are doing what you envision your future self doing. You already are being who you want to be. So keep it up, and steady as she goes, alright?

3. Self-sabotage

Yeah, we all have it: that little voice inside our heads that loves to rear its ugly head and say, “No you can’t.” Three little words can hold a lot of power. Self-doubt can be truly debilitating, and this is coming from someone who has battled with self-esteem issues and depression. I get it.

That little voice is not always our advocate, and when it talks too much, we start to believe it. And even worse, we start doing things to make it true. The critic inside you said, “you won’t be able to do that today” and it wore you down enough times that you stopped trying.

When this inner critic of yours decides to chime in, tell it pipe down. Talk to yourself in the mirror if you want to. There’s some psychology experts out there that advise mirror work because looking into your own eyes can help you connect with yourself.

Tell yourself the reasons why you want it. Tell yourself how you’re going to achieve it. Then go out and prove that inner critic wrong and kick some ass!

4. No one knows your dirty little secret.

Okay, so your resolution or goal you’ve set for yourself isn’t actually some dirty little secret. So why are you acting like it is?

Sometimes we feel like sharing our goals is like sharing a part of our most inner selves. They can be deeply personal. But if you are willing to share it with someone who you can trust, you may be surprised how much lighter you feel after doing so. After all, carrying such a hefty goal on only your shoulders can be a burden.

And while no one else can achieve your goal for you, having a support system in place when you’re not feeling it can be just the boost you need to get you back on track.

When asking a friend or partner to be your support system for this, be clear about what you want of them. Do you want a buddy to join you on a walk once a week? Do you want someone to confide in without judgement and just listen? Remember, be specific with this, too, and tell them your reason for why you’re doing it.

It’s also worth mentioning what you don’t want them to do. For instance, if you text your friend and say, “Man, I am just not feelin’ it today.” You don’t want that friend to say, “Perfect! Let’s go out for burgers and beer!” Be clear that you want support in your goal, not an excuse to ditch it.

I think you’ll find that a true friend is going to feel so pumped and honored to be a part of your life that sharing this “secret” goal of yours will really help you succeed. And who knows...maybe they have the same secret goal, too.

5. You didn’t plan to fail.

Yeah, we all f up sometimes. But having the mentality that it’s “all or nothing” is just not realistic. There are going to be times that you stray from your goal. Times when you stray all the way back to your “old self” even after achieving great things. So what’s going to make it different this time?

This time you’re going to plan to fail. Yep, plan to fail in epic proportions even. And then, when you do’re going to forgive yourself.

You’re going to tell yourself that you acknowledge you fell off the wagon for a bit (days, weeks, months...whatever the case may be!), but you’re getting back on track now. And then, let that be it. You have started toward your goal again.