When Your Goals Never Work

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Set goals every year, sure this time it will be different... and then it's not? Your goal setting once again goes nowhere?

What can you do so that this time your goal setting works, and you aren't left feeling a failure?

1. Get big on benefits.

How do you feel when a partner or friend says you shouldn't do something? Or even worse, gives you not-so-nice reasons why? “You shouldn’t talk to her, you should have some self-respect”. “You shouldn’t take so long getting ready, it's vanity.”

If you are anything like the rest of us, you feel criticised and judged. Which means the last thing you want to do is what they are suggesting.

So then why are you using the same tactic when it comes to goal setting? Choosing goals that are really self judgements and negativity in disguise?

“Lose weight (because you are fat)”. “Get my life organised (because you are a mess)”? No wonder you rebel a few weeks in.

We stick with goals that feel good. So find a positive that is not self-critical and work that into your goal.

Don’t eat better to lose weight. Decide, "I will eat better to have more energy and improve my cardiovascular health." "Don't just get organised. "I will find ways to organise my time so I feel calmer and less anxious, and can spend more time on my writing."

2. Align with your personal values.

Unless you have taken the time to really connect with what matters to you personally -- not to your family, or partner , or friends, but to YOU — then you are in danger of making goals you think you ‘should’ make. That 'seem' smart and practical.

But if we are going against ourselves, it’s like pushing a boulder up hill. For example, if you goal is to make a ten thousand dollars more this year, but you don’t have wealth and success as a value? Then it will be a slog.

If you connect that to a value you do have - say, helping others? And decide to make money mentoring others part-time, so you can donate a percentage to charity? You might find it fun and reach your goal in no time.

3. Double the time container.

But most of us who set goals are go getters. Our timelines are often not realistic. We forget to factor in life itself, and all its many curveballs.

Think about your goal, and say out loud the time line you have in mind, such as six months or a year. Do you feel any reaction in your stomach or body? If you feel tense, try doubling the time container. How does two years feel? Try to find a time container that feels a little exciting but not stressful (we can use a bit of pressure to keep going).

4. Give something up.

Here’s the thing about everything we want -- there is always a math to it. In other words, there will be a cost.

If we want to take a course, we give up going out with friends that night. If we want to fall in love, we give up being alone whenever we want.

Sit down a make a list of all the things you’ll have to give up to get this goal, no matter how small the things seem. It’s a way of bringing any resistance into the open now, so you aren’t unconsciously sabotaging as you go.

5. Get support.

Have you ever noticed goals set with friends tend to get done? It’s not just the group effort, it’s the support. Do you have friends who are also setting goals who could act as ‘support buddies?

Also don’t overlook the help of a therapist.

Often the reasons we never achieve our goals in life is down to psychological issues like low self-esteem and negative core beliefs. A talk therapist not only is someone to check in with weekly, they help you recognise and blast through such blocks to the life you want.

Time to finally start seeing real change in your life? Find a therapist you like and can afford now, book a session, and make this week your first step forward.

Need a Therapy Session ASAP?

Here's who's next available...

See other available therapists ›
Are you a therapist?
Apply to be on the platform  ›