Do you set new goals at the beginning of the New Year only to find yourself struggling or, worse yet- completely throwing in the towel by the end of January? Yeah, me too.
Why am I focusing on the negative here? I’m not trying to be a dream killer, just a realist. Setbacks will happen, and sticking my head in the sand hasn’t worked. I know enough to recognize that I (nor you- sorry, sister) will not meet all of our goals to 100% perfection. We are human, after all, and life will happen.
But, what can I do to move past the setbacks that will happen without just giving up and throwing in the towel? The ENTIRE bag of chocolates I emotionally ate last night? The impulse buy that just blew half of our extra payment towards tackling debt this month?
After some reflection, here are 13 reasons I’ve likely not met my past goals or successfully created new habits. Maybe you can relate. Maybe we both can move closer to hitting the mark this year.
1. Not Having a Backup Plan
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need a backup plan, but there will be days when things just don’t go as planned. Enter a backup plan for the unforeseen. What have I decided ahead of time is agreeable as a substitute when my original plans don’t work? How long do I give myself to get back on track after an illness? What is in the freezer that I can make with zero effort instead of fast food on the nights I’m just done?
2. Thinking Too Many Goals Are Important
If everything is important, then nothing is important. What isn’t as important? What do I really, really need to stick to? What can slide? What is my number 1 goal? Number 2? Number 3? I need to make sure I’m structuring my days so that priority is given to my goals in their order of importance.
3. I Tend to WAY Overcomplicate Things- Including Goals (Learning to Use the 80/20 Rule)
Stick to the basics of what is important and what gets the job done. This is known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. This rule states that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your efforts. This is true of both good and bad outcomes.
Figure out what is the 20% that gets you to your goal most of the time. Does setting out your gym clothes and shoes the night before help get you to the gym because it’s one less effort to make in the morning? Does having pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer get you 10 minutes closer to dinner on the nights you are exhausted?
What is derailing you on a consistent basis? Is having candy in the nightstand blowing your hard work the rest of the week? I find I often need to take my phone to my room and put it on silent so that I can focus on my family.
Taking a minute to reflect on the habits that propel us towards and the patterns that hold us back will help us hit the target more often.
4. Being Impatient With Larger Goals
Usually, my impatience is part of what is causing me to miss the mark with many of my goals. Things didn’t get this way overnight, and they aren’t going to be repaired overnight. We live in a society that wants things in an instant- instant food, instant joy, instant relief, instant service, and the list goes on.
If I’m being really honest, my previous impulsiveness is often what caused me to be in the situation I’m trying to push past. Meeting goals often is the reversal of many poor decisions and will take long-term persistence to get the job done. The sooner I recognize there often isn’t a quick fix but more of a day-by-day effort, the better I will be for it (and the more likely to meet those goals).
5. Goal Planning Against My Natural Tendencies
One of the biggest mistakes I have made with trying to form new habits is planning in a way that works against the grain of my personality type.
Let’s face it. I know myself better than anyone else, so why do I goal plan by someone else’s standards that aren’t realistic for me? I operate better with a looser rhythm to my days than with a strict by-the-hour schedule. My personality isn’t one of complete chaos, but I also am not one who likes every last detail planned out. I enjoy spontaneity and the margin to let the pleasant interruptions of life happen (a picnic at the park on a beautiful day or taking 5 minutes to bird-watch with a kiddo-it really is the little things that make life worth living).
As an aside, maybe I need to consider planning in little spaces of unscheduled time and extra margin for myself as an incentive for meeting those goals!
6. I Put Off My Goals for Way Too Long
“I can always start tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes because I always say, “I can always start tomorrow.”
While I’m on the subject…
Why do we typically only focus on new goals at the beginning of the New Year? Good things worth doing are worth planning and changing up our schedule at any point in the year! Quit waiting for January to goal plan!
7. Giving Too Many Excuses Instead of Owning My Bad Decisions
There is always another holiday or birthday to celebrate when I’m dieting. There is always some new thing I just “have to have” (no, really, I don’t). I give myself permission to skip the habit I’m trying to form for the hour/day, and then I linger on stretching out that time instead of just getting back and track or jumping back in.
8. I Tend to Beat Myself Up When I Mess Up
After I quit making excuses (see #7), I need to move on and be the friend I would be to my friend. As in, “Great job on the changes you did make or the effort that was given! What is something you could do if things don’t go as planned tomorrow? What needs to be tweaked so that your goal is within reach?”
9. I Worry Too Much About What Other People Think I Should Be Doing
Confession… I’m an admitted people pleaser (and a constant work in progress 😉). Because of this, I all too often forget that I have needs and desires that are important as well. The goal here isn’t selfishness but more the reality that when I’m not at my best, I cannot serve others well (my family, my church, my community).
10. I Don’t Take Quiet Time to Reflect Often Enough
When I’m not getting into a quiet space, I can feel like I’m living hectic and scattered. Worse yet- I forget why I’m working towards my goals and new habits in the first place!
Anxiety has a way of creeping in when I don’t take time to be quiet with God and my thoughts. Quiet time with God reminds me of who I am, and most importantly, who God is. I am still loved even when I miss the mark on my goals.
11. I Often Let My Schedule Get Too Hectic
This leads to scattered thinking, scattered living, and living out goals that don’t match my true values. The reality is I only have so much time to devote to things, so they had better be things that really matter.
This is why reflection is such a good practice. If our goals don’t match our priorities and real desires, we are going to really struggle. As our oldest daughter nears 18 I realize how finite my time with her really is! Funny how time drags when they are 6 months old and how it flies when they are 16.
12. Not Setting Up My Environment for Success
How we set up our environments matters more than what most of us realize. James Clear talks about this in his book Atomic Habits. Setting up our environments for success can prevent decision fatigue. Whether we realize it or not, our habits drive our behavior. A well thought out environment can make it more likely for us to follow through on continuing great habits or spur us forward in new habit formation.
If I plan to read my Bible every morning and pray, I should make sure my Bible is on my bedside table, and my phone is across the room instead of on my bedside table.
Our environment isn’t always physical. When is the last time you did a digital audit? Are there apps on your phone sucking time from you most days that don’t give you any value or push you toward your goals in the long run? Will this game I play for 30 minutes a day have any significance in 20 years? If the answer is no, get rid of it!
If I’m trying to watch my budget and eat healthy at the same time, it might be helpful to have the local grocery store app on my phone and add items to my cart and order it for pickup. I can keep track of what I’m spending and prevent last-minute impulse buys of junk food that don’t meet my goals.
13. Focusing on the Urgent Instead of the Important
If I’m not careful, this one gets me every time.
The best defense against this is having a weekly spouse and family meeting. Weekly spouse and family meetings are one of the 20% efforts that pay off huge dividends in our household. When everyone is on the same page, not as many last-minute surprises creep up and there is usually a skeleton plan for the urgent things to also get done but not through sacrificing the important things.
Bonus: Create a family mission statement to help guide your goal planning.
If you aren’t sure where to start with goal planning, start by making a family mission statement.
The only caveat here is to make sure your personal goals aren’t being overshadowed by others’ goals and that you aren’t eclipsing others’ goals. Everyone is important in a family, and your goals should reflect that. Thriving families have a balance of give and take. Still, if your family is operating in a healthy way, the goals of you and your spouse, as well as your older children, should reflect the overarching mission statement of your family.
What are your goals or habits you’re working on? In what ways do you struggle to make new habits stick or to meet your goals? What can you do to help your future self?