A famous study of Harvard graduates revealed that students who write down and review their goals are far more likely to actually attain them.
So, if it’s really that simple, why AREN’T we writing down our goals? Aren’t our goals worth doing everything in our power to make them come true?
Why is it then that we tend to celebrate the end of every year by tossing last year’s goals in the trash, and promising ourselves next year WILL be different?
Well, all due respect to the Harvard study, but I don’t think it went far enough. You see, I think there’s a deeper reason your goals haven’t come true (three of them, actually).
After all, if it was REALLY that simple—if all we had to do was write down our goals and review them every day to attain them—wouldn’t more people be doing it?
There is something deeper going on that’s keeping us from taking that simple action. And, when you understand what’s really stopping you from reaching your goals, you can then make the necessary changes that will help you do so in the future.
Let’s dig in:
1. Your identity doesn’t match your goals.
In “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life,” Mark Manson explains how, if you want to become a writer, but you never actually sit down to write, your identity may be someone who wants to write but never actually gets anything done.
When you really think about it, this makes sense. One of the functions of the ego is to protect your core identity, because if that goes, then who are you anyway? It’s scary to lose your identity.
So, your ego is going to fight tooth and nail to keep your identity intact, even if it’s an identity you don’t particularly care for (i.e. a “wanna-be” author or entrepreneur).
And I think there’s a deeper level to this, too.
I think there are certain goals—I call them “Love-Based Goals,” that, if you want them to come true, require you to be different. They’re whispers from your soul, and they help you transform into the person your soul knows you can be.
When you become the person your soul is nudging you to be, those goals will fall into place.
Love-Based Goals are whispers from your soul, nudging you to become the person you’re meant to be.
But if your identity doesn’t match your goals, you’re stuck. If, for example, you’ve been saying something like, “Someday, I’m going to open my business/write that book/quit my soul-sucking job,” your identity may be stuck on some sort of future version of yourself that never comes true.
Because if it came true, you would lose your current identity, as you know it. (Paradoxical, I know. But, there are many things in our life that don’t make any sense and yet somehow, they control us, so keep an open mind.) Your ego doesn’t want to lose its current identity, so it creates a resistance to the transformation of it. Which leads me to the second pitfall that may be keeping your goals from coming true …
2. You have a fear, a mindset block, “resistance,” or something else that’s stopping you.
(Remember, this can also be directly tied to #1—you’re blocked around your goal, and over time, your identity gradually changes to a “wanna be.”) This can show up in your life in many ways, but some common indications that this is what’s going on with you never seem to have enough time to work on your goals, or you can’t focus on them, or you experience constant procrastination when it comes to sitting down to actually work on them.
If you’re really struggling when it comes to taking action toward your dreams, you may also have some sort of fear lurking underneath the procrastination (and that fear can be totally subconscious). For instance, you may have a fear of success or a fear of failure (which clearly would impact the success of any endeavor your take on). You may have a fear of visibility or being seen, which translates to you not marketing your business enough, which results in the failure of your business. You may have a fear that your spouse or partner will leave you if you become too successful. Maybe you can’t bear the idea of making more money than your parents.
All of these are examples of what can happen when your subconscious (which is 95% of your brain) is not on board with what your conscious mind (or the other 5%) wants to do.
(Note: this one is so important, I’m going to talk more about it in future posts.)
3. The goals aren’t yours.
In some ways, this is the easiest of the three pitfalls to handle, but it may also be more deflating than the others, because you may have to come to grips with the fact that you’ve wasted a chunk of your life on goals that aren’t even yours.
If you’re facing this one, one of two things is likely going on: the goals are someone else’s, or you’re not willing to do the work.
Someone else’s goals: Maybe you grew up with a father who thought you’d make an awesome doctor, or a mother who assumed you would take over the family business. Maybe they never even asked you what you wanted to do—it was always just “understood.”
Or maybe you grew up believing part of being an adult meant you needed to get a responsible, boring job. Or maybe you felt a lot of shame around your body because it wasn’t “thin” enough, and you’re forever trying to lose weight that just refuses to come off.
All of these are examples of internalizing someone else’s goals, whether that someone else is a specific person (such as a parent), or society/media, etc.
Either way, the goals are not yours. They’re goals you likely feel you “should” be doing, but they aren’t yours.
Not willing to do the work: The other version of this pitfall comes to light when you have goals that you think are super awesome, but not quite awesome enough to actually do the work to reach them. For instance, who wouldn’t love an extra million or two in their bank account? But are you willing to do the work it requires to get that money there?
Lots of little girls dream of being a professional ballerina (including me). But, the first time I laced up actual pointe shoes and stood on my toes … let’s just say my interest waned after that.
If you’re not willing to do the work, the goals aren’t yours. (And, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that. We have only so much time on this planet—there’s no shame in not spending hours and hours on goals that aren’t yours.)
So, now you are aware of the common pitfalls that could be keeping you from accomplishing your goals.
In my next post, I’ll share a simple, three-step system to help you create love-based goals that you absolutely can bring to life.
And, if you want more on this topic, check out my new “Love-Based Goals: Your Guide to Your Purpose and Passion” book, available at most online retailers here.