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Why Goals Fail - New Research

Aug 27, 2008
There are two reasons why goals fail or we give up trying to achieve a specific goal. When I first learnt this, I knew I finally found the Holy Grail of goal achievement.

The first reason is the "Brick Wall". Often if we make an attempt or several attempts at achieving a goal, we can hit what they call, a Brick Wall. That is often the main reason for failed goals. Too many failed attempts at reaching for a specific goal will stop us from reaching again. To overcome this, write down all the times you attempted a goal and why it failed. By identifying the causes, and by bringing them into your consciousness, as opposed to having them lie dormant and a hidden hindrance, you can then analyse the past reasons of failed attempts and start to think laterally about how to retry and this time achieve them.

The second reason is the "Unrecognised Goal". Yes, sounds simple enough. But when we have too many unacknowledged goals in our past, we lose sight of our innate ability of great achievement. Our subconscious finally gives up. What we have to do is list all of our past goals THAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED and make a big deal about it. Yes, pat yourself on the back, go out and celebrate each achievement, acknowledge yourself for work well done. When I finally did this, my whole world turned around. And now, every time I achieve a goal - no matter how small - I make sure I congratulate myself in some way. Reward yourself, make it a real celebration. It works! Our subconscious fine-tuning needs this subtle but extremely important ongoing support.


To set a goal, it must have all of the following attributes to be successfully achieved:

1. It must be inspirational. This is probably the most important of all. The goal had to be inspirational to us, not someone else - but to us alone. It must make us leap for joy at the thought of achieving it. Make our hearts race at the mere thought of it. The more inspirational the goal is to us, the more easily we will achieve it.

2. It must be achievable and realistic. Although it is great to stretch our imagination a little, if the goal is subconsciously too unachievable or outside our mental boundaries of reality, we are less likely to attain what we want.

3. It must be specific. If the goal is vague or has no timelines, it lacks the motivational force for our subconscious to follow it through. A goal should always be quantified in terms of what, why, how, and especially when.

4. It must be measurable. If our goal is measurable, it enhances our ability to create feedback mechanisms to monitor, control and correct the process of achieving it.

5. It should be long-term. Yes, long-term rather than short term goals are better to achieve. Sorry to disappoint you, but the long-term goal, as unenthusiastic as that may sound, has the most meaning and most benefit to us. Short term goals, whilst easier to achieve, have a short term fulfilment effect. It's like a quick shot, a bubble that bursts too soon and in the long term, when we tire of the quick fixes, we give up on our real long-term aspirations.


First of all, write down all your goals for the coming year. If they are long term or may take a few steps to achieve, break them down into Action Steps - smaller, more easily attainable actions with specific dates, and list how they can be measured so you know when you have achieved them.

Secondly, give them a purpose. A wise man once said, "For every goal there must be a purpose, the higher the purpose the more likely you will achieve it". When we give our goals a higher purpose, we automatically feel more motivated in striving towards it. For example, if you want to achieve a certain weight goal, your higher purpose could be better health and improved fitness that will make you more able and confident to achieve better work opportunities.

And finally, but most importantly, write down your 'ideal scene'. Your Ideal Scene should describe the final outcome of your goal and demonstrate when you are on target. This ideal scene is one of the most critical steps in achieving goals because it provides your subconscious with a picture to attain.
About the Author
Ann Marosy is an accountant, consultant, and former university lecturer. She was formally a Financial Controller of a Fortune 500 Company, and Finalist of SA Executive Woman of the Year.

Ann is the author of 'The Money Program' book series, which includes managing the stages of wealth creation, formulas for budgeting, debt-free program and investment strategies. Visit: The Home of The Money Program
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