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  February 11, 2020

Why It’s So Difficult To Reach Your Goals

Reach Your Goals
What do you want? It seems like a simple enough question, but when you look at your life and leadership, goals and aspirations, what comes to mind when you think about the things you would like to change or improve?

Have you ever felt frustrated at how difficult it can be achieving many of your goals or creating lasting change? Why does that happen? Is it because you’re not smart enough? You don’t have enough money? Is it due to a lack of time? You don’t have the right resources or support in place? Actually, it’s not.

I’m going to share with you the #1 reason that it’s so difficult to reach your goals or create lasting, meaningful change in life and work.

When it comes to achieving goals or changing our lives, the natural tendency for us is to focus on behaviors. If I change this habit or that one, then I’ll be able to achieve my goal. Or if I get this training or take that class, then I’ll have what I need to succeed.

But changing habits and behaviors alone is rarely enough to help us overcome the biggest challenge to creating lasting change.

Let me give you a stark example.

Not long ago a medical study showed that if cardiologists tell their seriously at-risk heart patients they will literally die if they do not make changes to their personal lives—diet, exercise, smoking—still only one in seven is actually able to make the changes. One in seven!

Now we can probably assume that the other six wanted to live, see more sunsets, watch their children and grandchildren grow up, and do more of the things that bring them joy and fulfillment. They certainly didn’t lack a sense of urgency. In fact, the incentive to change could not be greater. Their lives were on the line, and still they couldn’t do it.

When you’re working toward any goal or looking to create meaningful change in your life, you are driving some kind of plan or agenda, but some kind of plan or agenda is also DRIVING YOU. The problem is that it is out of your awareness. You cannot yet take responsibility for it. And most of the time, that agenda will limit or even doom your ability to actually achieve the things you set out to do.

I remember hearing a quote by psychologist William Perry, who once said that the two most important things to know about people you are trying to help change: “What do they really want, and what will they do to keep from getting it?”

The challenge is we set up competing commitments and conflicting priorities that prevent us from achieving what we say we want.

Let’s say for example that you have a goal at work to be a better delegator. What competing commitments might get in the way? As you dig into this question, maybe you realize:

  • I like to have things done my way!
  • I like being the go-to person that others seek out when they have questions or challenges
  • Maybe it’s a pride of ownership thing; I like to see my stamp on things.

All of these things work in direct opposition to you becoming a better delegator.

Change does not fail to occur because of insincerity. The heart patient is not insincere about his wish to keep living, even as he reaches for another cigarette. We fail to change because we mean both things simultaneously. It fails to occur because we are a living contradiction. It’s as if we have one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake at the same time!

At the simplest level, it gives us a picture of how we are systematically working against the very goal we genuinely want to achieve.

So the bottom line is this: any time you set a goal for yourself, get clear on those underlying commitments that will prevent you from making the changes you seek. Identify your conflicting commitments. Make the invisible visible. Only then can you begin to do the work to remove them.

Otherwise, you will do the dance that we do so often, where we take one step forward and two steps back.

Leave a comment below! Think about some past goals and aspirations that you failed to achieve. What were the potential underlying competing commitments that prevented you from achieving your goals? Share that realization below. This is how we learn and build community, by sharing our thoughts and experiences.

Kevin Ciccotti, CPCC, PCC, is an authority in helping leaders to build stronger, more sustainable relationships with their teams, helping them to drive engagement, increase productivity, and lead to greater overall success. He is passionate about helping leaders to create an environment in which their people can thrive and achieve their full potential. Read More…
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