Ever wonder why your goals, benchmarks or resolutions aren’t met? What if there was a way to discover if you were likely to achieve them?
We’re once again at the beginning of another year, a time when people tend to be more introspective. People think about what they want to accomplish in the upcoming year, they think about what they accomplished this past year and they think about what they haven’t accomplished – over and over again.
As a Personal and Professional Achievement Coach, I work with clients who want one of three things: Greater success in business, greater productivity in their sport or more fulfillment in their relationships. Like us all, they have goals and desires; and like most of us they look at the New Year as the start of new methods, productivity or systems that will be instituted to accomplish these goals.
Every year we make these evaluations and every year we see lists of why we don’t meet goals; we see news stories of how to finally accomplish goals in the future. “So called” achievement experts quote the latest and greatest ways to achieve. I agree that many of the methods can help speed the process of a focused individual but most people move forward without an important system of evaluation – and it is the result of these evaluations that can be huge inhibitors to successes.
As I start to work with a new client I will have my clients break down different areas of their lives and have them delineate the areas in which they want to improve. If possible, I will have them list out the benchmarks of success they seek. When asked what they specifically need to do to achieve these benchmarks they list out very detailed plans. The sales executive knows they need to make a certain number of contacts, proposals, presentations, etc. The athlete knows they need better nutrition, better practice habits, etc. The Administrator knows steps that must be instituted to make better efficiencies in her hospital. In nearly all circumstances, people have the knowledge of what steps or systems are needed to succeed. Furthermore, in most areas of business, levels of improvement can be measurable; thereby showing the progress toward the benchmarks or goals.
I’ve worked with a lot of people who want to improve their successes and who want to accomplish goals. They want to be a better executive, golfer, placekicker, parent, spouse, salesperson and others of the like. They really all have one thing in common: They already know what they need to do to accomplish their listed goals. This fact isn’t unique to my clients, it’s extremely common among most of us.
The fact is, we usually know exactly what we should do to succeed or achieve goals we set. So here’ the big question:
Since nearly everyone already knows what they need to do to accomplish their goals – so why don’t we accomplish them? What’s the real reason we don’t meet our goals? After all, if we already know the steps needed to achieve goals and benchmarks of success – then why don’t we follow Nike’s old advice and “Just Do It”?
So the applicable question is not why we don’t achieve, it’s really a question of why we don’t do the things we already know need to be done to achieve in the first place.
Understanding the answer to the question brings about three important terms and definitions that are important to consider when evaluating whether you will meet your goals or maintain your resolutions.
Merriam-Webster lists the following:
motivation: the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something : the act or process of motivating someone: the condition of being eager to act or work : the condition of being motivated: a force or influence that causes someone to do something
motive: a reason for doing something: something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act
success: the correct or desired result of an attempt
In consideration of these terms we must address the how, what and why of goal achievement. The why we achieve is based on the motive we have for doing something in the first place. How this can be initiated by ourselves or others is the motivation. The what can be drawn to the desired result, or success.
If the aptitude exists to be able to accomplish the steps to achieve the goals then the only reasons that remain as to why don’t achieve them reside in these definitions. And the reasons that most goals and resolutions aren’t achieved almost always fall within these four categories:
- 1. Because we don’t really want the consequences of the success or levels of success
- 2. Because we aren’t really emotionally prepared to accept the meaning of the success
- 3. Because internally and unconsciously we don’t believe we deserve the rewards we consciously seek
- 4. Because the rewards we anticipate receiving by achieving the goals are not considered consciously or unconsciously to be worth the effort anticipated to be needed.
Though the answers are relatively simple in concept, the reasons and what to do about them are not as simple. The reasons are generally due to fear, perspective or emotional “baggage”.
In Human Nature it is fact that our actions and reactions are based on two tenets within our prime directive: to seek pleasure or to avoid pain. And for the purposes within our conversation, please understand that pain is equivalent to fear. In this realm, fear is the anticipation of an uncertain level of discomfort. Fear is experienced consciously and unconsciously, and it tends to be considered by our emotional self to have greater significance than pleasure. Therefore, if all things are equal we will tend to avoid pain/fear than choose to seek pleasure – if given the choice.
Having no or limited experience with the consequences of success (or specific levels of success) is often an inhibitor of success if our unconscious doesn’t know what to do with the unknown consequence that our conscious seeks. The concept of the “fear of success” is commonly referenced but seldom fully understood; this is the heart of it. We don’t truly “fear” the success, in reality our unconscious simply can’t anticipate what the success will mean to our internal existence and thereby resists it.
An example of this phenomenon is that of a golfer entering the final round of a tournament with the lead. If they have these commonly held unconscious systems at work, they will usually fail to hold onto to victory. It is why many pro golfers must be in contention several times before they “break through” to victory. It isn’t that they don’t truly want to win, they simply don’t know how; because their unconscious thwarts the result it cannot anticipate. Consciously, the golfer feels this as stress, fear, and can even experience many physiological symptoms of rapid dehydration, muscle fatigue and even an impaired judgement of time. All results of the unconscious attempting to preserve its control over consequences it knows it has experienced.
Another element that impacts our levels of achievement or success is perspective. What often occurs is that people discover that they’ve unwittingly adopted a conscious belief of what success means to them but once evaluated, they discover that their definition of success was not based on their personal beliefs, core values or sense of importance. Instead, they discover they’ve adopted the beliefs based on how they perceive the world perceives others.
Consider an example of this phenomenon: A person who lives in Los Angeles and is surrounded by Mercedes Benz, Ferraris and Jaguars can easily adopt the belief system that a symptom and sign of success would be to own one of these luxury vehicles. It wasn’t their belief prior to moving there but it can become their belief because that’s how they perceive others (in that world) perceive those who drive those cars as a success. However, once moving from L.A. and to a rural farming town in Indiana, that same person can quickly lose the desire to own such a luxury if those in their new environment consider those who own luxury vehicles to be outcasts and are looked down upon.
Inherently and commonly unconsciously, we have developed our own internal sense of achievement and success that is independent of the views of the outside world; this occurs whether we know it or not as we grow and evolve through adolescence and into adulthood. When we adopt an additional belief system of “success” as based on the external perspective of others, conflict results.
An additional element of conflict that is commonly responsible is emotional “baggage”. The taught and untaught lessons we unconsciously learn that impact and develop our internal level of self-worth. This element results in our conscious mind “believing the press” – that we are as good as others say we are; that we can accomplish anything we set our mind to and other similar affirmations of positivity. There’s only one problem, our unconscious mind doesn’t believe it. In this scenario we’ve grown to unconsciously believe we don’t deserve the highest accolades, awards or rewards. Many circumstances of our history can create this unconscious perspective but regardless of the origin, our lack of internal value on the unconscious level will thwart success or higher levels of success – regardless of our conscious belief system. In the extremes, the unconscious will truly sabotage successes we’ve achieved in the process of “proving” its beliefs of poor worth to be correct.
Assessment of value and worth both consciously and unconsciously can also have an impact. Consider the businessman or businesswoman who wants to be considered by their peers as a success. The determination of success of the peers and the individual may be attaining the level of Regional V.P. The individual wants the “success” of attaining this position and certainly could benefit from the extra $100k that the salary would provide. But what if that businessman or woman loved being home at night with their spouse or family; what if, they consciously welcomed the financial security the raise would provide but unconsciously wanted to maintain the peace, sanctuary and intimacy their current life and position provided.
If the position of aspiration requires significant travel away from home, would that businessperson truly put forth their greatest effort to achieve the proclaimed goal? Knowing that “success” in aspiring to the position would provide a conflict in value or worth to the individual and would absolutely prevent them from doing so. The same would be true if the conscious and unconscious motives were reversed. Therefore the conscious and unconscious evaluation of value and worth will impact the level of effort extended to achieve a goal.
The resulting conflicts from these scenarios are responsible for millions of missed goals, achievements and resolutions among everyone one of us and are often considered “failures”.
And the consideration of “failures” is a problem as well…
We tend to focus on the goals that we’ve previously set that we haven’t accomplished and feel bad about it; we usually consider these to be failures. Most of us hate the word failure – in fact, we consider this word itself to be one of the words that evoke the most pain and emotion. We fail in marriages, in projects, in tasks and even in business or careers. Failures (or the interpretation we make to be considered failures) and the fear of them have tremendous emotional impact upon our lives.
While we all handle the results a little differently, often those who “fail” unconsciously internalize failures as diminished value or worth; the results and effects of multiple “failures” can be so impactful that the continually diminishing sense of worth can ruin a marriage, end a career and in extreme instances can make a parent abandon their children. Others tend to internalize the “failure” as confirmation of internal doubt thus perpetuating a cycle of failure.
But what is failure? Most of us would accept the definition of failure to be: The lack of achieving an established goal or benchmark. What if our definition of failure is incorrect? What if the definition became:
Failure: The lack of achieving a wanted goal or benchmark.
No matter what, all people’s actions are based on the avoidance of pain or gain of pleasure; the key is to properly associate to motivate. The proper association of an emotional connection to the success or achievement is paramount to and directly correlated with the likelihood of success, presuming the aptitude exists. We must want with full emotional engagement the results of our goals to be successful in achieving them; furthermore, they must be properly associated with the avoidance of pain or fear or gaining pleasure.
So maybe the real question we should ask ourselves when we set our goals or benchmarks: Do we really want what we say we want?
As you begin this New Year in your business life, career or relationships and you list out the things you want to accomplish, while remembering you haven’t accomplished them in the past. Consider the following questions:
- Do I truly, deep down, want all of the consequences of the success we claim to want?
- Am I truly emotionally prepared to accept all that will come with succeeding and will I truly consider my achievement a success based on my definition?
- If I achieve my goals and “succeed” will I truly treasure the success and feel I really deserve the rewards?
- Based on my definition of success, is the effort I anticipate having to expend truly worth the rewards I expect to receive?
If you are able to deeply examine your inner beliefs and cannot emphatically answer “yes” to each of these questions then one of two things exist – either you truly don’t want the results you’ve set for your goals (and thereby preparing to failing at accomplishing them to the highest extent) or you simply haven’t yet properly associated the emotional motivation to achieve them.
The main point – make sure every goal you set is yours and that will fulfill your desires; if they aren’t yours or ones with which you can emotionally ally, you’ll likely not prefer the outcome.
We devote all emotional resources to those goals we emotionally want to achieve. Put another way: We cannot, to our greatest potential, succeed in that which we are not emotionally engaged or aligned.
Share this with your colleagues, staff and children – help make them all successes.
To achieve your goals to the greatest levels that you truly seek, work with an expert Achievement or Discovery Coach to help you properly align your emotional investment with your goals so you can reach your fullest potential in the arenas that will fulfill your life.
We’d love to help you.