Setting Goals - Why So Many People Fail

goals

By Nancy Smorch

In trying to help people lead a healthier life, I’ve noticed there are people who will do whatever it takes to be in peak health... and then there are those that aren’t willing to make the changes needed to even marginally improve their health.  Actually, many people I talk with aren’t even willing to make a fraction of the diet and lifestyle changes necessary to move closer to peak health.

Why is it that they say they want to be healthier (lose weight, cut out gluten, decrease the sugar intake, exercise more frequently), yet they fall short of accomplishing their goals?

Over the last couple of months I’ve given this a lot of thought and here are two of the top reasons I’ve found for this discrepancy.

The first reason is lack of clarity of their goals.  As with any area of your life, when you’re setting your goals or intentions, the more clarity you create, the more likely you are to see your intentions become a reality.

One of my favorite quotes (and I have many of them) is the proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish."

I have definitely seen evidence of this first hand, and on many occasions.  There are certain areas of my life that I am crystal clear about - I tolerate nothing but what is moving me toward that vision.  Then there are areas (multiple) of my life where I have an “idea” of what i’d like to accomplish, but no specifics - just a sea of possibilities and generalities.

Remember that clarity trumps generalities every time!

Examples of weak goals in health would be:

I want to lose weight.

I want to have more energy.

I want to eat healthier.

Although all of these statements sound nice and make you feel like you’re moving in the right direction, they really aren’t setting you up for actually achieving them.  Why?

First of all, they are way too vague.

Let’s take the goal:  I want to lose weight.  Great, lose one pound and call it a day.  Oh, you wanted to lose more than that - why didn’t you say so?  Exactly how much weight did you want to lose?  Let’s say it’s 10 lbs.  Great - but you need to be even more specific.  Is that 10 lbs. over 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, or 10 years?  The time frame you chose is going to dramatically effect the strategy you will use to lose the weight.

If you decide you would like to lose 10 lbs. in 2 months, now you can break it down and see that means you need to lose 1.25 lbs. per week.  Now you have benchmarks and checkpoints to hold yourself accountable and to measure whether your strategy for achieving your goal is effective.  If, for example, by the third week, you’ve only lost 1 lb., you’ll want to re-evaluate your strategy and make some changes.

Let’s take the second goal:  I want to have more energy.  Why are you not likely to accomplish this goal?  Again, it’s too vague.  If you want more energy, drink a Red Bull.  Just kidding, of course, but you need to define exactly what “more energy” means to you so you know exactly what that would like like in  your life and you would know when you’ve achieved it.

How about saying instead, "I want to create a healthy routine and system of food and activity each day so I no longer experience a mid-morning and mid-afternoon energy slump (no need to reach for coffee, carbs or energy drinks).  I would like to start immediately so I have a system that works so within one week, I am no longer experiencing dips in my energy level."

Much more specific, so much more achievable.

On to the second major reason people don’t achieve their goals:

People tend to do things for one of two reasons - to avoid pain or to gain pleasure (you’ll find most people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure).  So you need to look at your reasons for wanting to accomplish your goals and intentions.

In order to set yourself up for success, you need a strong enough “why."

If you don’t have a strong enough reason, when a challenge or temptation comes up or when everything becomes chaotic in your life, you’ll start allowing breakdowns in your strategy and you won’t reach your goal.  You need major leverage.

Let’s take the example of wanting more energy.  Even if you were more specific about exactly what more energy looked like to you, you still need a big enough “why.”  And telling yourself you want more energy throughout the day so you don’t have to rely on energy drinks may not be a big enough why.  You need to dig a little deeper.

Why do you really want more energy?

Is it so you can be more effective in your job or career which will help you make more money so you can save for the trip you’ve been wanting to take to Italy in the fall?

Or maybe it’s because you want to be fully present with your kids who are growing up so fast.  You want to be able to play with them and be creative and be disciplined with them to create a foundation for a great lifetime relationship with them, and when you are tired, you find yourself snapping at them or setting them in front of the TV or computer to “babysit” them because you can’t focus enough to have a conversation let alone play soccer or go for a bike ride.  Also, if you’re tired, that’s probably the first symptom to show up from an energy deficiency, which if left untreated, could lead to so meting more serious down the road (hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, silent inflammation, gluten sensitivity).  It will be much easier to deal with and correct now than it will be months or years from now when you have many more symptoms besides dips in your energy.

Would these be big enough whys for you?  If not, you need to dig deeper and find out why you really want to achieve your specific health goal (or any goal for that matter).

There are other reasons, of course, that people don’t reach their goals, but these are two of the top reasons I wanted to bring to your attention.  We’re coming up on the end of the year and about to enter into 2015, and this awareness will come in handy as you plan your life for the next week, the next month, the next year, and throughout the rest of your life.