Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals

Douglas Vermeeren

Most people claim to understand the importance of goal setting in order to attain a better life, but in fact, approximately 80 percent of people never set goals for themselves. This is especially prevalent among people who are not involved in some sort of business or entrepreneurial endeavor that promotes goal setting.

Even more surprising, of the 20 percent of the population that does set goals, roughly 70 percent fail to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. And when you take into consideration the fact that many of these goal-setting people strive for easily attainable, small goals, it’s a wonder that anyone accomplishes anything remarkable at all in business and in life.

When it comes to goals, there are two categories: “be” goals and “do” goals. In other words, who do you want to be or what do you want to achieve? Within each category, there are four areas of goals: wealth, health, relationships and self-fulfillment. So any goal you set for yourself will fall into one of these areas.

When a business professional sets a goal, it tends to be either a wealth goal or a relationship goal. However, achievement involves all four areas, and success means finding balance in the four areas. In order to live a successful life, you need both “being” and “doing” goals in each of the four areas.

But before you rush out and set goals at random, you need to know what traps to avoid. What follows are the top 10 reasons why people fail at achieving their goals. Avoid these roadblocks and goal attainment will be yours.

1. Fear of success and/or failure

Some people are afraid they will fail or, even worse, that they may actually succeed. As such, they don’t even bother trying to attain a goal. Such people lack belief in themselves and in their potential. In their mind, if they fail, everyone will think negatively of them. And if they succeed, people will be envious and think negatively of them.

So it becomes a lose-lose situation no matter how they look at it. But realize that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Believe in yourself and your abilities and others will, too.

2. Lack of understanding about the goal-setting process

Many people mistakenly believe that goal setting simply means putting a goal on paper, setting a date for completion, marking off checkpoints as they occur and then starting all over again. Such a mentality hinders people from success, because a goal isn’t a one-time thing that you eventually scratch off a list.

Setting a goal is really about changing yourself for the long-term. Goals aren’t short-term, quick-fix things; they are fixed and immovable destinations that show the world who you want to become or what you want to achieve.

3. Lack of commitment to the goal

Even though people state they want to achieve a certain goal, in truth, they’re really not committed to it. Because of this lack of commitment, they don’t give the act of goal attainment their full effort. And as with anything in life, if you don’t give it your all, you receive mediocre results. Commitment is crucial for attaining any goal.

4. Inactivity

After setting a goal, writing down dates and setting checkpoints, some people stop. They never actually take that first step needed to progress toward their goal. But realize if you don’t get started, you can’t go anywhere. Without action, nothing happens. So if you’ve created a goal list and now wonder why none of your goals are transpiring, ask yourself what action steps you’ve taken to achieve your goals. If you haven’t taken any action, now is the time to start.

5. Analysis paralysis

Many people let questions and doubts paralyze them. They believe they can’t start on a goal until they have all the answers to every “what if” scenario. However, no matter how long and hard you prepare, you will never have all the answers to the questions you ask.

Additionally, most people make their decisions and/or answer their questions based on where they are right now, rather than on where they want to go or who they want to become. Always base your decisions and answer your questions with a view to the future, not a view to current situations.

Your situation will change because of the decisions you make today and will dictate the success of your journey. So, move forward toward your goal knowing that you’ll never have all the answers.

6. Lack of a real destination

People often begin setting goals without a solid destination of who they want to become or what they ultimately want to achieve. But if you don’t have a destination in mind, then you’ll never know which road to take to get where you want to go. Your destination needs to be clear – something you can visualize and describe to others. Without such a clear view of what you want in life, you’ll be forever changing course and falling short of your potential.

7. Failing to plan

While many people understand the formula of goal setting, they don’t have a plan for goal attainment that’s personalized to them and their experiences. In other words, they neglect the gifts they possess which can help them attain the goal, as well as the people they know who may be able to help them. We each bring so many unique talents and attributes to the table, and we know a multitude of people who can help us in some way. Be mindful of these advantages during your planning process and use the resources you have available to you.

8. Having too many goals

Some people have too many goals and not enough focus. It’s like they’re standing in front of a dart board with three targets in mind. Hitting just one target is difficult enough; hitting three targets simultaneously with one dart is impossible. Therefore, determine the one goal you are focused on and move forward with that one goal only.

Eliminate other goals that are secondary. This is not to say that you should never have more than one goal. Rather, you need to realize that you have only so much time and energy. Therefore, choose the goal that will give you the highest ROE (return on effort) and focus on that one goal first. Once complete, you can then focus on other goals in sequence.

9. Feeling unworthy of the end result

Some people really don’t believe they’re worthy of attaining the goal. As such, they self-sabotage themselves. Perhaps they suddenly walk away from the key contact who will help them with their goal, or they neglect to do a critical activity that will enable them to achieve their goal. People who feel unworthy usually lack self-confidence, and confidence is the keystone to goal attainment.

10. Lack of motivation to change

Finally, many people are simply satisfied with what they have and where they are in life. As such, they don’t explore what else is available or what greater things they could achieve. Research tells us that there are only two motivating factors that cause people to change: pain and pleasure.

And even if someone is feeling pain in a situation, that pain may not be great enough, or he or she is simultaneously receiving ample pleasure, so the person doesn’t strive for more. Change and goal attainment only happen when you’re ready to break the status quo and truly want something better in life.


Goal achievement doesn’t have to be an elusive target. You really can be whom you want and do what you want. By balancing your goals into the four categories mentioned and avoiding the mistakes that hinder people’s results, you can achieve any goal you set for yourself and reach new levels of personal and professional success.

About the author:

Douglas Vermeeren is an international speaker and best-selling author on goal setting and human performance. His most recent book, “Amazing Success,” combines more than 400 interviews with top achievers and highlights the attributes and similar patterns they followed to achievement. For more information, call 403-714-5191 or visit www.douglasvermeeren.com.

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