Achieving Goals when Willpower Fails You

There seems to be a one or two themes or topics common to many conversations I have with people: they have audacious goals but do not necessarily think of themselves as audacious or they are frustrated trying to achieve their audacious goals.  I wonder, is that you?

Forever we have been told to set ambitious goals.  Everyone tells us to set goals but not how to achieve them, especially the big audacious ones; the ones that we know in secret but rarely have the courage to share with others.  It’s as though we are being told to dig a deep hole without a shovel.

How does one achieve those big goals with all the questions and second guessing running through one’s head?  “How do I achieve my goal but dare not share my dream with others because they/me will only scoff?”   “Who am I to have such lofty goals?”  “I have tried so many times and failed why should I try again?”  “How do I forsake that dream in order to be practical and reasonable when it continues to haunt me?”

Don’t.  Don’t give up on that dream or goal. Don’t listen to the scoffing.  Don’t underestimate yourself.  All that is missing is that no one taught you the particular skills to repeatedly achieve audacious goals.  What if you could master what I call Goal-Achievement knowledge and skills?

Without acquiring goal-achievement knowledge and skills one is doomed to fall in to the trap so eloquently described by Henry David Thoreau:
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

There are three questions you need answered to thrive and avoid a life of quiet desperation:

1.   Why do I need to know how to achieve audacious goals?
2.   Why do I repeatedly fail to achieve my goals?
3.   What steps do I take to achieve my goals?

1.   Why do I need to know how to achieve big goals?
There are three reasons why it is both relevant and important to understand goal achievement:

  • Firstly, we all have goals.  Every last one of us.  For many it is to maintain the status quo.  We unconsciously goal set to keep things the same.  If you do not know how to achieve audacious goals in principle you will fail and be frustrated.
  • Secondly, without any goals we die.  Yes.  Just to stay alive we need some goals to project us in to the future.  How do you kill young, healthy American POWs in Korea without violence, starvation, or poisoning?  Feed, water, and shelter them but brainwash them in to believing that they had no future, no one waiting for them, nothing, absolutely nothing in the future. Amazingly, young POWs would then would cover themselves with a blanket, crawl in to the corner of the room, and die within days.  No goal, no life
  • Finally, there is a strong link between goal achievement, thriving, and growing.  If you want to thrive you need to constantly achieve goals.  If you constantly achieve meaningful goals you will grow and thrive.  Who does not want to thrive?

2.   Why do I repeatedly fail to achieve my goals?
Generally, I find that people fail because of a combination of one or more of the following three reasons, all of which can simply be remedied:

Myths and misconceptions

  • Many fall in to the trap of listening to the powerful voices who tell us to only set goals we know how to achieve.  Thereby trapped in to inaction until they can answer the questions: How will you do it?  Do you know the cost, time, knowledge needed?  Do you know how to access the resources?  How are you different from everyone else?  Remember, by definition one does not know how to achieve a big, bold goal.  If  one knew, it would not be big or bold.
  • Then there is the seductive trap of magical thinking.  “If I wish hard enough it will come.  If I sit back, relax, and magnetically attract what I want it will magically appear.”  While having an open heart and being attractive to a goal is important it is in and of itself insufficient.
  • Reading and listening to stories of successful people explain their success.  But research has repeatedly shown that successful people often do not know the answer; they do not know to what they should attribute their success.  Was it envisioning or hard work?  Hint: Success is a combination of both hard work and envisioning/

            We do not know the planning appropriate to the goal.
When we have big goals, e.g., to build a thriving business, to become sober, to lose weight, to become the parent our kids deserve we need to change.  As Lou Tice always said “to achieve lasting success we need to change from the inside out”. The change process has six or seven steps (supported by extensive research of Prochaska, Norcross, and Diclemente).  Just like learning to walk as an infant we have to go through every one of the steps or the change will not last.  Depending on the goal and who we are we will glide through some steps and slog through others.

We don’t initiate or stay In Action long enough
I have found that this state of affairs is not for lack of wanting or lack of willpower.  Generally, we tolerate this desperation because no one taught us the particular skills needed to repeatedly achieve audacious goals over and over again.  Hint: change our expectations of ourselves so we are not waging an internal battle but rather flowing in to our desired future.

In the next article I address the skills you need to achieve your audacious goals. Click here to schedule a complimentary 10 minute one on one insight session.