Reasons why we fail to accomplish our goals

by Ken Rupert. 0 Comments

In a recent non-scientific poll I conducted, respondents indicated that there were five primary reasons why they were unable to achieve their goals. Thirty-three percent of those responding said that they fail to achieve their goals because they do not have the correct resources. Although a lack of resources can contribute to not achieving a goal, not having the correct resources is a failure of the individual or organization setting the goal.

Let me give you an example. If I set a goal to be promoted by the end of the year, but I lack the education required, then there is a good chance that I will not be able to achieve my goal. However, if I have done an accurate gap analysis, I would have determined that I need to pursue more education, thus putting in place a goal to gather the correct resources to accomplish my ultimate goal of being promoted.

The process used to set a goal can be just as important as the goal you are setting. If you set a goal using the strategic model I advocate, you are less likely to fail due to incorrect resources. Goal setting should be a simple three step process. Anything more complicated than that is wasting time. The three steps are: conduct a present state analysis, then establish your desired future state and, finally, conduct a gap analysis to determine what you need to do/have in order to succeed.

However, if you fail to achieve your goals because of the second most identified problem, you will truly have a problem being successful at anything. A quarter of the respondents stated that procrastination was the cause for failure. I remember having one client say, “Ken is going to help me with my procrastination.” And then after a long pause he said “We’re going to get started next week.”

Procrastination has many roots. The biggest one is the level of importance. The more important a goal is to you, the more motivated you are to achieve it. The reason why the cheetah fails to catch the gazelle is motivation. The cheetah is trying to catch lunch; the gazelle is trying not to be lunch. In addition to the level of importance, there is the pain vs. pleasure factor. When the pain of not doing something is greater than the pleasure of not doing it, you will be motivated to relieve your pain. Thus, you will work towards your goal even if you still fail to achieve it. Typically, those who procrastinate will work to the point where the level of their pain falls below the level of their pleasure. At that point, they will stop working.

Procrastination is not about the goal or the process used to establish the goals. It is strictly about the person and what motivates (or de-motivates) that person. Procrastination is a personal character flaw and it is not incumbent to any goal or goal setting process. When you say “I will do that tomorrow” I can almost guarantee that you won’t complete it tomorrow. By the time tomorrow gets here, it is today. For the procrastinator, tomorrow never gets here. You have to act in today in order to accomplish anything tomorrow.

Wise counsel on procrastination is found in Proverbs 6:6-11.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.” Be that ant. Stop procrastinating and take ownership of your success by setting and achieving goals.

The third reason given for failure to achieve goals is the lack of planning or improper planning. This can be anything from not having the knowledge of a solid strategic goal structure to a lack of attention to detail. If you use the three step process, you should be able to construct solid strategic SMART goals without problems. Therefore, if you fail to achieve your goals, it is a good possibility that you have not paid enough attention to the details.

When setting goals, keep in mind these three truths: life happens, constraints exist, and details matter. Let me explain, life happens’ first. Life happens around you, to you, and through you. Life will interrupt your plans, it will challenge you abilities, and it will cause you to question your ideas. Therefore, you need to build flexibility into your goals so you can pivot when these challenges occur. That is paying attention to the details. Ninety-nine percent of success comes from understanding where failure can occur and making adjustments. Do not to accommodate failure, but rather try to eliminate its possibility.

Along with factoring in life happening to your goals, you need to work within your constraints. You only have 168 hours in a week. Chances are you are working with a limited amount of income. You have obligations, necessities, commitments, and personal desires that require a large percentage of your resources. These constraints can cause you to under-estimate what it takes to achieve your goals. Again, the details matter.

The practice of planning cannot be under-estimated if you want to achieve your goals. Planning requires you to consider the details in best case scenarios and worst case scenarios. Looking at both ends of the spectrum allows you to create some flexibility into the process, which in turn, provides a wider pathway towards achievement.

Failure to execute was the forth reason given with 12.5 percent of respondents indicating this reason. I believe that we are really good at setting goals. I believe that well meaning people seek to be more effective and efficient in their daily lives. But failure to execute is less about the goal and more about actually developing a plan of execution. Setting goals is the easier of the two activities. It is easy to say, “I want to visit Colorado next autumn.” It is more difficult to devise a strategy for how you are going to accomplish that goal.

Goals and the strategy for accomplishing them are inseparable. A goal without an achievement strategy is what I call a dream. I dream of going to Iceland and visiting the Blue Lagoon. This is a dream because I have not fashioned any strategy for how and when I will accomplish this. The strategy for accomplishing your goals is designed in the gap analysis. A gap analysis is used to determine what you need to do or have in order to succeed. This is where the strategic planning enters into the goal setting process.

Therefore, if you have correctly established your goals using the three step approach of present state analysis, desired future state analysis and the gap analysis, you will have your goal with an execution plan built in. This will enable you to be more successful in achieving your goals.

The final reason given, with just 8.33 percent of respondents citing it, was goal dependencies. Goal dependencies are unrelated or uncontrollable external influencers that increase the risk of failure. When you set goals with dependencies, you are setting yourself up for failure. I have several rules that I use when setting goals. The primary rule is “Never set goals that depend upon someone else.”

We see this in the corporate landscape all the time. The problem of achieving a goal that is tied to another person’s actions is that you actually spend more time managing the other person’s actions than you spend focused on executing your plan. Organizational goals often drive the behavior of self-realized achievement. This is the mentality which states; “As long as I do what I am responsible for, the finger of failure cannot point towards me.”

Unfortunately, organizations cannot get away from these types of goals since there is a collective team dynamic. However, on a personal level, you should stay away from goals that have dependencies. Even when you are setting goals with your spouse, you should determine who has the primary responsibility for goal achievement. Focusing on the correct goals will ultimately result in you and your spouse achieving the desired future state.

If you want to learn more about the three-step goal setting process, visit If you are considering a life coach to help you achieve your desired future state, I would be honored to provide you with a free consultation. Every successful athlete has a coach. Every successful professional should have one too. If you would like me to come to your organization and provide instruction on goal setting and execution strategy planning, please contact me at 

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