By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
What is getting in the way of reaching your goals?
You started out with a lot of goals you wanted to reach, but along the way, something went wrong.
Things are not turning out the way you wanted them to and are taking longer than you expected.
Sometimes you may feel like that hamster stuck in the wheel, running harder and harder but getting nowhere.
What can you do to finally reach your goals?
Here is my top 20 list of reasons you’re not reaching your goals.
1. Chasing someone else’s goal takes you in the wrong direction.
Make sure your goal reflects your passion in life. Pursuing someone else’s dream for you results in you neglecting your own dreams. Examine the goal you are working towards, are you the one who selected this goal and will reaching it satisfy you. If you are pursuing a goal to make someone else approve of you, it’s not your goal. You won’t be able to put your all into building something that’s not meaningful to you.
2. You’re pursuing the wrong goal.
Chasing money will not get you to love or happiness. Don’t make the mistake of pursuing one goal when what you want is something else. Many people make the mistake of pursuing money thinking this will get them the love and respect of others. Everyone needs enough money to meet their basic needs, but beyond that more money will not necessarily make you happier. Don’t tell yourself your pursuit of money is for your family if it takes you farther and farther away from them.
3. Your goals are fuzzy.
Beware of nebulous goals that are hard to define. You need to write goals down and research them. If your goal is success, you need to know how that success will be measured. Do you want to have a lot of friends? Do you want to do important work? Which would more say success to you, spending years alone in a lab in finding a cure for a rare disease or spending night after night on stage with people laughing at your jokes?
4. You’re waiting for “someday.”
Make inertia work for you. A body at rest requires a lot of energy to get it moving, once you start moving it takes a lot less energy to keep the progress going. Most people, when they reached their retirement years, find that their greatest regrets are not the things they did that didn’t turn out well. The biggest regrets with the things they said they would do something but never got around to doing them.
5. You’re not clear on your priorities.
If the goal you are working towards is not your top priority, it’s likely to keep getting pushed back. What you spend your time on each day is how you spend your life. As the time passes, if you’re not working on the thing you say is your goal, you haven’t made it your top priority. If you’re too busy to act on reaching your goal, then what you have in mind is a fantasy, not a goal.
6. You’ve left out some steps.
You tell yourself your goals to become a professional, a doctor, nurse, or lawyer but you have left school. Before you can be a teacher or any other professional you first must learn. If you don’t seem to be making progress toward your goal, re-examine your plan and see if there are any steps you need to take that you’ve left out of your planning.
7. Trying to do too much.
Trying to rise to the top of a profession requires you to start at the bottom. Whatever you want to accomplish, you must put in the time practicing. Working on too many things at once dilutes your effort. Highly successful people weed out the unimportant things and focus on their top priorities.
8. Trying to reach your goals too fast.
When you look closely at overnight successes, what you often find are people who spent years learning and honing their skills. Don’t be disappointed when reaching your goals takes longer than you expected.
9. You’re using the wrong tools.
Looking for a better paying job, when you require more education or training won’t get you where you want to go. Are the skills you have the ones you need to reach your goal? The world keeps changing. If you’re not updating your skills, they are becoming obsolete.
10. Your goals are negative and punitive.
Set positive goals. The evidence doesn’t support the helpfulness of using negative self-talk or punishing yourself in reaching positive outcomes.
11. You failed to develop your team.
Everyone needs a support system. The journey to reaching goals involves many people. If you want to reach goals, look for teachers, mentors, and companions for your journey. Some things you will need to become an expert on, for other tasks you will need to learn to identify the experts who can support you in your quest.
12. The closer you get to your goal the stronger resistance becomes.
Don’t slack off when you get close to your goal. If you go to college for three years and then quit what do you have? You don’t have a degree. In my lifetime, I’ve known several people who always wanted to write a book. Some of them even had a manuscript tucked away in a drawer. What they didn’t do was write that last chapter, send that book off to the publisher, or learn the skills they would need to publish it themselves. In the early stages of your journey towards your goal you can see the progress but the closer you get to your goal, the more effort it takes to break through that resistance and reach the finish line.
13. You aim low and hit the mark.
Your goals should encourage you to stretch. Many people self-handicap. The set their goals so low that they can’t possibly fail to meet them. If you repeatedly set low goals, you are planning a life of low achievement.
14. You’re not reviewing and updating your goals.
The goals you set in middle school won’t mean much when you are middle-aged. Some of the goals no longer fit you. Reevaluate those goals. If you are no closer, revise your plan. If you met them all, you might have set your expectations too low and need to raise the bar.
15. You’re using the wrong “worry process.”
Some people try to protect themselves from failure by considering every possible thing that could go wrong. They worry endlessly that they’ll make a mistake or something bad will happen. The worry-about-everything approach leaves you paralyzed in inaction. People who reach their goals consider the big possibilities. They use a “worry-enough” process. Once they have thought it through enough, they stop worrying and take action.
16. You talk about your goals rather than working towards them.
Psychologists discovered that people who talk about their goals a great deal get their satisfaction out of discussing those goals with others. As a result, they rarely take significant action. People who reach goals discuss them with fewer others. Limit your discussion of your goals to mentors, advisers and those who can support you in the process. Don’t tell everyone, but do have a few accountability partners who will encourage you to keep working towards your goals.
17. You don’t recognize what you accomplish.
Many people who feel they’re not reaching their goals have failed to recognize all the things that they have accomplished. Your big goals need to be broken down into smaller segments, and you need to recognize each of those smaller goals as you accomplish them. You don’t get a college degree by taking all the classes at once. You take a few classes each semester, and at the end, your payoff is the degree. If you’re writing a book, you write it one chapter, maybe even one paragraph at a time. Pay attention to the things you accomplish. Don’t dismiss your achievements as unimportant. Not giving yourself credit where credit is due will leave you too discouraged to continue your journey towards even larger goals.
18. You have not learned from the mistakes of others.
Whatever goal you are pursuing, make it a practice to look at how others have tried to reach similar goals. Learn from their mistakes, so you don’t have to make them all yourself.
19. You can’t picture what reaching your goals would look like.
High performers can picture what their life will be like once they reach their goal. Olympic athletes practice imagining that perfect performance, then standing on the gold medal stand. If you don’t believe you can succeed, you sow seeds of doubt in your mind. Your mind is likely to protect you by creating that failure you imagine. Avoid fantasy images of sudden wealth and fame. Picture the very real results of long, hard, work towards your goals.
20. You haven’t become your own best friend.
If you don’t like yourself, no matter how many goals you reach, it will never be enough. Spend time getting to know who you are and work on accepting that how you are right now is adequate. Self-acceptance doesn’t lead to complacency. Negative self-thoughts become obstacles in your path to reaching your goals.
Take another look at your goals. Re-examine your plans and your attitudes. Change the things you’ve been doing that are not working and head back out there in your pursuit of the life you want to have.
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David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
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