We talk a lot about setting goals, living your dreams, reaching your full potential and even give you some great ways to plan out those goals and dreams. But, I have found that it isn’t the thinking and planning process of goals and dreams that is the hard part, oh, no.

The difficult part of reaching your goals and dreams is following through and not letting yourself talk yourself out of them. That’s a mouthful, so let me clarify.

Why we fail at accomplishing our goals

Call them goal, dreams, projects, whatever. If you are a Lifehack reader then you have a list of them somewhere. These are the things that you want to accomplish or the things that someone else wants you to accomplish.

Even after intense brainstorming, planning, and following through with some of the steps that you have outlined to reach your goals; something happens. Plans change, people quit, things get tough, your idea doesn’t seem so revolutionary anymore; you get stuck and with that your goal starts to fly away to failure.

Don’t get me wrong, failure is a good thing and we must fail and fail often, but what about those things that you truly want to accomplish? What about your “life’s work” that you must do? What happens when those goals go up in a puff of smoke?

There are four reasons we fail to accomplish our goals and reach our dreams:

  1. The goal is more of a “pipe-dream” than you thought and should be thought through more thoroughly. Maybe you don’t have the resources you need to accomplish it or something in your environment or life has changed. Your plan may need some work and you may have to “regroup” on the entire goal/dream/project all together.
  2. Your priorities completely changed and the goal isn’t important anymore. Maybe that’s not a complete failure, but the goal is now gone.
  3. Your goal/dream/project just sucked and you found out it wasn’t worth doing.
  4. Things got too hard to accomplish and you thought your way out of your goals. This is the worst of all offenders.

We have a decent amount of content at Lifehack about how to plan things more effectively and how to deal with priorities and “areas of focus”, let’s look at how not to think yourself out of your goals and dreams.

The “Stinking Thinking” thought process

Sometimes we think too much. So much that we can think ourselves out of a good idea. Not good.

How does it happen?

Yesterday I was doing a bike ride (know about our Fitness Challenge?) and I was about 20 minutes into it. My legs were burning, I was cramping up (not enough water, again), and I was sort of close to home. I reached a slower point in my biking and a thought entered my head, “you’ve done enough and you are spent, just head home”.

I’m working on a personal project that I am extremely excited about and I got to a place in code where I ran myself into a wall. I thought, “I should probably just start over with a different framework” which led to, “I’m never going get this done or make it right.”

This is where most goals stop dead in their tracks. The going gets tough, and we flee from the task at hand.

How to stop the process

Stopping “stinking thinking” is somewhat easy. Instead of convincing yourself that failing at your goal is the right thing to do, stop yourself, take a breather and regroup until your thoughts become more positive. Then act.

It only took me about 1 minute to change my tune completely from, “I can’t make this last ten minutes” to “I’ve come this far, push yourself forward.” Once you hit that “positive self-talk”, that’s when you push forward. Don’t second guess yourself and don’t consider alternatives.

Another way to get your positive thinking back is to review your goal and write about it a little bit. This will bring you back to a more positive state as your thoughts can be better organized and will be much clearer on paper (or screen). Once you find the positives, act.

Of course this only works with goals and projects that are good ideas or good for you; the others will be weeded out by priority and planning processes.

Don’t let your negativity get to you and destroy your dreams. Any goal worth anything will be difficult and you will reach the elusive “I can’t do this anymore” moment. Don’t give up. Wait for positive thinking to take over and move forward.

(Photo credit: boy drawing sales report on the wall via Shutterstock)

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