Ministry Resources

10 Reasons Goal Setting Is Failing You

Author: Angela Craig


I am enamored by athletes who achieve radical goals. Professional athletes; people who quit their jobs to join climbing expeditions simply to reach the highest peaks in the world. Ultra-marathoners who run, bike and/or swim for hundreds of miles, pushing their bodies to the limits to win a race. Their determination, persistence, will-power and discipline are something to be admired.

Inspired by these athletes and the desire to be healthy, I set physical goals for myself at the beginning of each year. Because exercise can be boring, I always like to add some type of adventure or travel to my routine. Last year it was climbing Mt. Adams and running the Victoria B.C. half marathon. This year, it is trail running and hiking a new location each week. This past month, I ran my first trail race on the Great Olympic Adventure Trail (GOAT Run) as a birthday gift to myself. A strange birthday gift you might think.

I am not a professional athlete or an ultra-marathoner, but for me, achieving a goal is better than any birthday out to the fanciest restaurant or a day at the spa. It isn’t the adrenaline rush of crossing the finish line. I didn’t even have a goal for a timed finish or a trophy. The win for me is the journey that leads up to the finish line along with the people I share the experience with.

Achieving goals are powerful in many ways.

If achieving goals is powerful and inspirational, why is it only 8 percent (maybe less) of people actually reach the goals they have set? (Forbes, 2015). If you are curious, read on and find out the 10 reasons goal setting is failing you. You may be surprises!

10 Reasons Goal Setting is Failing You:

1. Mental Boundaries: I don’t have time. I have failed in the past. I don’t know how to get started. These are all realities that goal setters face. When you have a dream, the first thing to do is talk to someone who is already achieving what you what to do. They will lead the way and get you on the path to success.

2. Comparison: During my last trail run, I found myself stuck in the game of comparison. As marathoners ran past me as if I was standing still, I thought to myself: Why couldn’t I have been born with legs like a gazelle? Why can’t I have the will-power and discipline of ‘real runners’ to eat like a rabbit, and train harder? I would be so much faster.

3. The Voice of Condemnation: Condemnation is the voice of shame whispering: You are not good enough! What were you thinking to have a dream that big? Achieving goals needs accountability not condemnation. Accountability is the voice of grace and a helping hand when you fall down or come upon obstacles. Accountability cheers you on. Accountability understands life’s interruptions and encourages you to keep going, re-frame, uphold, and even re-start when needed. Which word fits the voices in your head?

4. Undefined Strengths: If we don’t know our strengths, inevitably, we will spend most of our time trying to fix our weaknesses. We can easily fall into the trap of setting goals that other people thing we should have. For example: In marathon running, some people don’t think running a marathon counts if you don’t have a timed goal. For me, having a timed goal is mentally defeating because I don’t have the strength of competition. Setting a timed goal goes against my strength of learning, collaboration and team work. When setting a goal, model it around your strengths instead of your weaknesses and you will have personal success.

5. Motivation verses Discipline: Inspiration is the spark, discipline is the fire.

6. Goal Setters Underestimate the Amount of Work it Will Take: Living an extraordinary life takes hard work! Simple truth – People that live their dreams understand it is their small, consistent steps that lead to extraordinary results.

7. Goal Setters Underestimate Life’s Interruptions: Remember: Tomorrow will be the same as today – it will be filled with interruptions, new adventures and opportunity, routine, surprises – all at the same time! What will you choose for your day? You only fail if you give up on your dreams.

8. Fatigue & Burnout: There is a difference between being tired and weary. Being tired is a condition of the body. Weariness is a condition of the soul. Self-care of your mind, body, and soul is imperative to your ability to reach your goals.

9. Culture of Resistance: Have you ever set a goal, only to have the people around you sabotage your efforts? Intentionally or unintentionally, it happens! For example: Your goal is to give up sweets, someone will have the urge to leave homemade cookies on your desk. Or if you want to start taking a workout class after work, you might get a better offer to go on a date out to dinner and a movie.

10. Fear of Failure: Most people suffer from a fear of failing and don’t even know it. The voice of fear says, What will others think of me? The voice of fear is also a negotiator with your inner self. It tells you: Don’t tell anyone your goals, that way when you fail, you can quit and save yourself the embarrassment of failing! Unfortunately, the voice of fear is a liar. For your goals to succeed, you need to share them, seek knowledge, accountability, and collaboration and encouragement. These are the enemy of fear.

What's Next

We would love to answer any question you have or help suggest next steps on your journey.