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9 Reasons Your Actions Didn’t Allow You to Achieve Your Goals

Woman in yellow shirt looking at a cell phone.

Goals are only helpful if you stay on a path to achieving them. But, we’re human, and we do things to stop ourselves from achieving our goals. I’ve recently written posts on why your thoughts and feelings  might be reasons you didn’t achieve your goals. But today I’ll focus on ways your actions didn’t allow you to achieve your goals.

Sometimes we just aren’t firing on all cylinders. When that happens, take a tip from the military and do an After Action Review (AAR).

1. You didn’t set a SMART goal

Your goal was too vague. It must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant/risky, and time-bound. And if you didn’t have a verb in front of that goal, you’re sunk before you start.

Quick fix: Read one of the many resources on creating a SMART goal and apply what you just learned when you didn’t achieve your goals. 

2. You didn’t write your goal

You know that 1950s study conducted at Harvard (or was it Yale?) The one that proved that people were more likely to achieve their goals if they wrote them down. Yeah, well, it turns out that study never existed!

But a more recent study does exist. A study by Dr. Gail Matthews shows that people who wrote their goals were 42 percent more likely to achieve them.

Quick fix: Write them! And multi-millionaire Grant Cardone writes his goals twice a day — once in the morning and the again at night! 

3. You didn’t keep your goal visible

Oh yeah. You can’t just write the goals. If you didn’t achieve your goals visualization is a biggie.  

Quick Fix: Have a sticky note on your planner, a “thermometer” on your wall, or an app to track habits. (I like HabitBull.) Paste images from a magazine onto a vision board – or use Miro. Or do whatever will help you to visualize your goal. Shoot, you could even make your goals into a screen saver for your computer!

4. You wrote a project, not a goal

You wrote what you thought was a goal. It looked like a lofty endeavor. It probably was. But that doesn’t mean it was a goal.

Your goal feels challenging but not exciting; it creates a slight improvement to operations but doesn’t drive the business forward; it makes you feel relieved rather than exhilarated when you finish. If so, you’re writing a project, not a goal.

Quick fix: Re-think where you really want to focus.

5. Your goal hinged on the actions of others

Recently I saw a client write, “Get 15 new clients by the end of the week.” She seemed surprised when she didn’t achieve her goal.

Quick Fix: Re-word your goal so that it reflects the actions you will take to get the other person to take the hoped-for action. In my colleague’s case, I suggested she write, “Make 150 calls to qualified leads this week.”

6. You ran up against obstacles

Obstacles will crop up. Guaranteed.

Quick fix: Nearly all big goals have obstacles to climb over. When I write my big annual goals, I anticipate a few possible obstacles. Then, I write a few quick ways to overcome that obstacle, if and when, it appears. That helps me to start fixing it quickly. 

7. You didn’t know when to say NO

The late, great Steve Jobs knew that saying yes to everything kills productivity. In 1997, Jobs famously quoted:

Focusing is about saying ‘no’ 

Quick Fix: Recognize you’re overcommitted. See what you can delegate. If that’s not enough, try to find a way to gracefully back out of some obligations.

8. You tried to multi-task

Sorry, but this doesn’t work. Multi-tasking kills productivity. David Rock’s book, Your Brain at Work, makes a compelling argument for how our brain can have only a few “characters” on the “stage” (the cerebral cortex) at the same time.

Quick Fix. Cut it out! Now!

9. You started to execute without a plan

I’ve done this so many times I could cry. I jump into the task and then I realize I went about the whole thing all wrong. Then I’m stuck. I’m fearful of failure, and I might even find myself failing. I’m frustrated.

Quick Fix: Consider it a lesson learned! Write this in your journal and move on!

There may be other reasons why you didn’t achieve your goals. But I’m willing to bet that any and all reasons swirl around three factors: your feelings, your thoughts, and your actions.

What kinds of reasons have you found that kept you from achieving your goals? What will you change going forward? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

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