One of TomorrowToday’s close friends and associates, and South Africa’s top practitioner of the psychology of success and motivation, Justin Cohen provides us with some reasons why people don’t achieve their goals. He goes on to make some concrete and practical suggestions for changing this situation, setting and achieving goals.
Whenever I ask my workshop delegates who has goals, most people put up their hands. Then I ask “who has written, regularly reviewed goals that you’ve broken into sub goals with time-frames?” Usually less than 5% of the group can put up their hands to that. Yet research suggests that this less than 5% off the population tend to be wealthier and perform significantly better in fields as diverse as sport and business.
Yet most of us have had goals at one time or anther that came to nothing. Why? There are six main reasons.
Number 1: Most people don’t achieve their goals because they don’t have any. Or at least, they don’t have clear, well-formulated goals. They’ve just got some vague notion of what would be nice. (I see people who don’t know where they’re going and are prepared to go through hell to get there!)
Number 2: They had goals once, but they failed to achieve them, so they gave up. These people don’t realise that success usually only happens after a string of setbacks. Failure is only terminal when you don’t get up. Entrepreneurs fail on average 3.8 times before they finally succeed. Ironically, not achieving your goal is often the best lesson you can get for achieving it next time. That’s if you’re prepared to learn the lesson.
Number 3: They set a goal that deep down they don’t believe they can achieve. If you don’t believe it’s possible, you can do affirmations and visualisations until you’re blue in the face, it’s unlikely to happen. You’ve got to build your self-belief.
Number 4: They set a goal that they don’t really want or want enough. If it doesn’t fire you with passion, you’ll have no reason to put in the hard work necessary to achieve any great goal. Desire is the fuel that drives your follow-through. You’ve got to really want it.
Number 5: They put their faith in their goal-setting plan rather than in themselves. Correct goal setting may just be the most powerful tool you have to get what you want, but it is just that, a tool. You are the real power, you are the success strategy you’ve been waiting for. The truth is goals don’t work. You work. But working without goals is like sailing the high seas without a sail – wherever you think you’re headed, you’re going to land up somewhere else. When you set your goals, you set your sail. But you’ve still got to do the sailing.
Finally, the reason people don’t achieve really big goals is because they have, really small thoughts. The size of your accomplishments is directly proportional to the size of your thoughts. The thing is big thoughts and little thoughts take up the same brain space, so why not go big?
In setting your goals don’t underestimate what you’re capable of. Maybe you think you don’t have the intelligence, well both Einstein and Edison were kicked out of school because they were thought to have learning disabilities. Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have enough formal education. Of the world’s top ten richest people they have three degrees between them. Let’s face it, the world is run by dropouts, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Richard Branson of Virgin are just a few of the worlds’ business leaders who never completed their formal education. Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have enough experience. Neither do first presidents of great nations. Think about it, when someone is first elected president of a country, they arrive with zero experience of leading a Nation, most of them manage, they draw on the expertise of the people around them and they learn as they go along.
Maybe your goals seem too ambitious, or perhaps even impossible. Well the impossible is only impossible until somebody makes it possible. Few people thought that a heavier than air flying machine was possible. In 1903 the New York Times implied that an attempt to create and fly such a machine would be a waste of time and money, that such an invention would most likely take the combined efforts of thousands of the world’s top scientists and as many as quote: “ten million years. Yet months later Orville and Wilbur Wright ” uneducated, unknown, and unfunded ” flew their plane Flyer 1 over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, flying right through the smoke screen of impossibility.
How did they do it? They were clear about what they wanted and they developed a plan to achieve it. What do you want? What kind of body, bank account, business or relationship? On what great adventure do you want to embark? Get a clear objective and a plan and you can have it. The size of a building depends on the size of the foundation. A great life needs a great foundation. Your goal achievement plan is that foundation.
Goals are the vision around which great organisations rally. Sadly, one study shows that just 15% of people can identify their companies top goals. I do conference speaking and training for Edcon, I’m always amazed at how often I hear staff at grass root level talk about the share price. These guys have no doubt about what the goal is and it informs everything they do. It also increases their sense of purpose.
During the Middle Ages a traveller came upon a large building site. He asked a couple of workers: “What are you doing?” The one grunted back: “I’m cutting stone. It’s hard, boring and my back is killing me.” The other responded, with shining eyes, as he pointed up to the heavens: “Im building a cathedral!”
What is your cathedral? What is your great, big hair-raising goal?
A group of people over the age of ninety were asked what they most regretted about their lives. The two most common responses were “I didn’t take enough risks” and “I didn’t reflect enough”. Why not take out three hours of your life to reflect on the calculated risks required to sew the seeds of your greatness?

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