Why Goal Setting Fails and 5 Steps That Can Make a Difference!

Goal Setting
3 min read

Goal Setting. The January 1st tradition that almost everyone participates in but doesn’t always adhere to. A new year means new perspectives, new goals, ambitions, and a brand-new chapter of growth and self-development. All that in one year, plus juggling life, a job, and a social calendar…phew! It’s a lot to manage; that’s why, when it comes to achieving goals in the new year, they often fail because most people are not truly serious about creating new, sustainable habits! In fact, studies show that less than 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions each year. Estimates even predict that people usually toss in the towel on January 19. So, why does goal setting fail, and what can we do about it?

1. Plan how you will spend your time. Time is elusive. Failing to plan our time is the principal reason we don’t accomplish our goals, whether in the new year or anytime. It is essential to turn goals into habits. However, when busy schedules and conflicting priorities arise, we have not pre-blocked or honored the time for our new habits. Whether you commit to blocking off an hour for the gym to reach a personal milestone, or dedicate 30 minutes in the evening to practice self-reflection, recapping each day, take the moment and don’t let distractions interfere.  Prioritize what is important and use your time in the most effective ways possible. Remember, to achieve a goal, you have to commit to the time. 

2. Make your goals more specific. Goal setting resolutions are typically more of a marathon rather than a sprint, meaning it is easy to get overwhelmed if your goals are not moderately paced. When goal setting, I love to reference the common acronym “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Notice how good it will feel to accomplish your goal and emphasize the “S.” Some may think they lack motivation, when they are actually lacking clarity. By pacing your goals with specific, achievable milestones over the year, the small wins encourage you along the way. Creating a detailed, attainable, action plan is truly the key to goal-setting success.

3. Tailor your goals to your strengths. Setting goals that play on your strengths allow you to significantly develop personally. Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize our real strengths and how to best employ them. Ask friends or co-workers what they think your strengths are. And, for accurate, research-based workplace strengths, the Harrison Assessment can be a great tool to advance goal setting and personal development. Rather than forcing yourself to do things you’re not good at (and therefore don’t enjoy), reframe your goal-setting process, and tune into what already works for you!

4. Set goals that you will enjoy attaining! When we set goals or desire to create habits that we don’t enjoy actively working on, we have little to zero motivation to accomplish them, let alone stick with them. According to the book, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, it is very important to incorporate something into your goals that truly makes you happy. When you do something you enjoy, you begin to associate the routine with being in a good mood, which makes you highly likely to continue doing it. By connecting goals to an important “why” or meaningful purpose, you are creating an emotional connection to your goal, which is driven by passion. Maybe one of your 2023 goals is to meet with someone new each month for lunch or volunteer more with a non-profit that serves the community…Whatever it is, set a goal that makes you want to do it again and again!

5. Choose an Accountability Buddy. Achieving goals is so much more enjoyable with an accountability partner.Talking about possibilities when you are winning—and receiving encouragement when you are stumbling—becomes even better with a partner to help get you over some of the bumps and relish in the highs. To develop your strengths even more, become a buddy yourself and help someone else ease over the finish line!

LEADERSHIP TAKEAWAY: In summary, a winning combination for reaching your goals in the new year is to be sure you (1) plan, (2) get specific, (3) employ your strengths, (4) find your “why,” and (5) be accountable to someone. You’ve got this! 

Would you like to be a better leader? Contact us about leadership training that can advance your career and business.

Dr. Cheri Rainey is the CEO/Founder of Rainey Leadership Learning, partnering with leaders to support the entire employee life cycle.