Whenever I ask my workshop delegates who has goals, most people put up their hands. Then I ask ‘who has written, regularly reviewed goals that you’ve broken into sub goals with time-frames?’ Usually less than 5% of the group can put up their hands to that. Yet research shows that this less than 5% off the population tend to be significantly more successful.

Most of us have had goals at one time or anther that came to nothing. Why? There are seven main reasons.

Number 1: Most people don’t achieve their goals because they don’t have any. Or at least, they don’t have clear, well-formulated goals. They’ve just got some vague notion of what would be nice. (I see people who don’t know where they’re going and are prepared to go through hell to get there!)

Number 2: They had goals once, but they failed to achieve them, so they gave up. These people don’t realise that success usually only happens after a string of setbacks. Failure is only terminal when you don’t get up. Entrepreneurs fail on average 3.8 times before they finally succeed. Ironically, not achieving your goal is often the best lesson you can get for achieving it next time. That’s if you’re prepared to learn the lesson.

Number 3: They set a goal that deep down they don’t believe they can achieve. If you don’t believe it’s possible, you can do affirmations and visualisations until you’re blue in the face, it’s unlikely to happen. You’ve got to build your self-belief.

Number 4: They set a goal that they don’t really want or want enough. If it doesn’t fire you with passion, you’ll have no reason to put in the hard work necessary to achieve any great goal. Desire is the fuel that drives your follow-through. You’ve got to really want it.

Number 5: They put their faith in their goal-setting plan rather than in themselves. Correct goal setting may just be the most powerful tool you have to get what you want, but it is just that, a tool. You are the real power, you are the success strategy you’ve been waiting for. The truth is goals don’t work. You work. But working without goals is like sailing the high seas without a sail – wherever you think you’re headed, you’re going to land up somewhere else. When you set your goals, you set your sail. But you’ve still got to do the sailing.

Number 6:, the reason people don’t achieve really big goals is because they have, really small thoughts. The size of your accomplishments is directly proportional to the size of your thoughts. The thing is big thoughts and little thoughts take up the same brain space, so why not go big?

Finally, the reason most people don’t achieve their goals is not because they give up on them but because they forget about them! That’s why we need an accountability system. Accountability does two things that are essential to achieving goals: it enables us to track progress and receive social support. Without tracking you’re playing football without goal posts. You don’t know if you’re winning or losing. Without social support you’re playing all on your own.

In setting  your goals don’t underestimate what you’re capable of. Maybe you think you don’t have the intelligence, well both Einstein and Edison were kicked out of school because they were thought to have learning disabilities. Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have enough formal education. Of the world’s top ten richest people they have three degrees between them. Let’s face it, the world is run by dropouts, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Richard Branson of Virgin are just a few of the worlds’ business leaders who never completed their formal education. Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have enough experience. Neither do first presidents of great nations. Think about it, when someone is first elected president of a country, they arrive with zero experience of leading a nation, most of them manage, they draw on the expertise of the people around them and they learn as they go along

Maybe your goals seem too ambitious, or perhaps even impossible. Well the impossible is only impossible until somebody makes it possible. Few people thought that a heavier than air flying machine was possible. In 1903 the New York Times implied that an attempt to create and fly such a machine would be a waste of time and money, that such an invention would most likely take the combined efforts of thousands of the world’s top scientists and as many as quote: ‘ten million years.’ Yet months later Orville and Wilbur Wright – uneducated, unknown, and unfunded – flew their plane “Flyer 1” over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, flying right through the smoke screen of impossibility.

How did they do it? They were clear about what they wanted and they developed a plan to achieve it. What do you want? What kind of body, bank account, business or relationship? On what great adventure do you want to embark? Get a clear objective and a plan and you can have it. The size of a building depends on the size of the foundation. A great life needs a great foundation. Your goal achievement plan is that foundation.

Goals are the vision around which great organisations rally. Sadly, one study shows that just 15% of people can identify their company’s top goals. It’s no good just setting them, we need to remind ourselves every day and if we’re in leadership we need to remind our teams.

During the Middle Ages a traveller came upon a large building site. He asked a couple of workers: ‘What are you doing?’ The one grunted back: ‘I’m cutting stone. It’s hard, boring and my back is killing me.’ The other responded, with shining eyes, as he pointed up to the heavens: ‘I’m building a cathedral!’

What is your cathedral? What is your great, big hair-raising goal?



© Justin Cohen


Justin Cohen is an international speaker, trainer and author. For more personal development resources go to www.justinpresents.com .