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10 Reasons Why You’re Not Reaching Your Goal at All

10 Reasons Why You’re Not Reaching Your Goal at All

Most of us have big dreams of accomplishing great things within our lifetime. We’re pursuing a feeling  by setting goals that force us out of our comfort zones and into new spaces where we become better versions of ourselves. Every single one of us has the capacity to be better. Before I talk about what holds you back from reaching your goals, I want to emphasize one important point: You are enough. Yes, you. You have the potential, the drive, and the zeal to accomplish every one of your dreams. But sometimes, you get in your own way. We all do it. Here are some reasons why you’re not reaching your goal.

1. Because you stop when it gets difficult.

Anything that’s worth getting is difficult to do. No matter your goal, whether it’s the finished manuscript, the weight loss, the marathon, or the million-dollar startup, getting to that goal takes a lot of grit. Along your journey, you will feel discouraged or stuck as often as you will be inspired to keep going. There will always be setbacks, but as long as you keep moving forward, you will make it there. So feel the burn, breathe into it, begin again, and know that the sweat and tears that you give to your goals will all be worth it when you get there.

2. Because you expect it right now.

If we don’t see the results we want right away, we give up. In our culture of instant gratification and immediate communication, we’ve gotten used to having things we want right away. So it’s not surprising that we’ve lost touch with working hard to get results we want to see. When they don’t show up right away, we feel like they never will, so we quit early and leave it up to our future selves to try again later (if at all).

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3. Because you don’t go with the flow.

When we have expectations that our path is set in stone, we get lost if it doesn’t lead where we thought it would. We stop looking for alternative routes, or worse, we turn around. Achieving meaningful goals is all about trying now things we’ve never done before. Be flexible on your path. Don’t get discouraged; take on the challenge. The saying, “it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey” is a cliché because it’s the truth—and solid advice.

4. Because you research without pulling the trigger.

With increasing accessibility to the Internet, we have a seemingly unlimited supply of information, research, and resources for just about any question we have. The other side of the coin is we have an unlimited supply of information. For every goal we make for ourselves, there are about a thousand people that have blogged, vlogged, or shared insight that relates to that goal. It’s definitely easy to get caught up in information overload and stall out before we even begin. Research what you need, and then get started like tomorrow is the deadline!

5. Because you sabotage yourself.

I can’t tell you how many times I wasted a killer workout by eating the most indulgent dinner that same day. Because, hey—I deserve a treat for that hard work! But that’s not what I need. We may not even realize we are sabotaging ourselves. Habits that are deeply engrained in our brains are not re-routed overnight. When I do something that helps me toward my goal, I feel realllly good. And to keep that good feeling going, I offer myself something else that I know feels good, like losing myself in a Netflix marathon, or eating that slice of cake, or buying that new bag I’ve been eyeing. But all of those things are designed to give me pleasure, not the intrinsic satisfaction that I feel when I do something that contributes to my long-term goals.

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6. Because you don’t manage your time.

There are only 24 hours in a day and it’s our choice how we fill that time up. And like changing our habits, changing the way we normally flow through our day does not change overnight. It’s up to you to say no to something that doesn’t contribute to your higher goals. You will never find time; you have to carve it out.

7. Because you lack a plan.

Reaching a goal means knowing exactly where you’re headed. Starting from the end and working backward is the easiest way to build a plan that will get you where you need to be. If you don’t know where you are trying to go and what milestones to reach, all it takes is one setback to stop your progress. Making a plan holds you accountable and keeps you moving in the direction of your ultimate goal.

8. Because you don’t want it enough.

Maybe you choose your goals because you think it’s what other people expect of you. When we see what other people are doing, especially when they are successful at it, we get a bias that influences our decisions. Don’t fall prey to the trap that we have to do things the way someone else has before. Every single human is unique and no two paths will be exactly the same. Stay true to what you really want.

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9. Because you lack clarity around why you want it.

This all comes down to the reason why we want the things we want. How do you want to feel? What are you pursuing on a more spiritual and authentic level? What’s your mission statement around the big goals you make for yourself? When you know this reason, never stop reminding yourself. Write it on your bedroom wall. Stick it on a post-it at your computer. Make it your morning mantra before you begin each day. Never let go of the why. It will help you remember why you started.

10. Because you procrastinate.

I waited until the end to write this.

Because putting off something is always way easier than doing it. Whether it be laziness, a lack of inspiration, or fear, it’s scary to do things that force us out of our comfort zone. We’re ALL guilty of this one. Ask yourself why you are resisting doing the work. Just wait. And I don’t mean put it off. When you find your attention span drifting away from the thing you’re supposed to be doing, don’t do something else. Just wait. And when you’re ready, get back at it.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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