The #1 Culprit Behind Your Goal Failures

The #1 Reason Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals | www.TheHeavyPurse.comWelcome to 2015. A new year not only signals new opportunities but also a chance to start over and recalibrate. Many of you have already set your goals while others are still contemplating what they want to achieve this year. While we may have occasionally set goals on a lark when pressured to have some, most of the time, we set goals with the intention to achieve them. Yet many of us won’t.

This is one reason why many people choose not to set goals. Why bother if you won’t achieve them anyway? This may seem logical, but as an unapologetic goal advocate, I find it to be short-sighted too. How can you live your best or ideal life if you don’t even know what it looks like? After all, goals are simply markers to create your dream life for you and your family.

Next Monday, I’ll share some tips to help you achieve your goals, but today I want to tackle what I see as the greatest enemy of your goal success. Most of you will face it at some point and need to be prepared to conquer it.

Set Authentic Goals That Matter to You

This is the first step to goal success and one that many people overlook, which sets them up from failure from the get-go. We don’t intentionally set goals that don’t matter, however, we subconsciously still seek the approval of others. We mimic the goals of friends and family without thinking about whether they are right for us. Or we don’t know what we want but only know we should want something, so we latch on to what others say they want.

It is very hard to do the work to achieve your goals if you aren’t highly motivated. If you find yourself struggling to achieve your goals, you need to first ensure you have authentic goals. Ask yourself the following: Why does this goal matter to me?

You should be able to answer the question easily. If not, then your goal may not be authentic or something you no longer truly desire. Be honest and don’t feel ashamed if you discover your goals need to be adjusted. Be grateful that you realized it and can now set authentic goals that matter.

Thanks for not laughing at my absurdly unattainable New Year's resolutions.

Fear is the #1 Enemy of Goal Success

A lack of authentic goals is the first stumbling block to goal success, but the real culprit behind goal failure is fear. Fear makes us doubt ourselves and abilities. We don’t like admitting our fears or confronting them. Instead, we tend to run from them or ignore them. This, in turn, means we ignore our goals and let them whither away, even if we truly want to achieve them. Our money emotions become unbalanced, leading us to make poor money decisions.

Our fears break down into two categories: tactical and emotional. Let’s take a closer look at how to identify and resolve them.

Tactical Fears that Prevent Goal Success

These are more knowledge-based fears. They prevent us from getting starting but once we address our fears, we can move forward quickly.

I Set Goals, But Now What?

We set lofty goals but then what? What do we do next? This stumps many people. They want to make the change, whether it is losing weight, saving for their retirement or getting out of debt. We get caught up in the initial excitement of being free of debt or excess weight, but once the high leaves us, we don’t know how to actually get rid of debt or lose weight or accomplish whatever your goal(s) may be. We stress over where to begin and worry about making a misstep. We get to the point where we become paralyzed to do anything.

Goal Success Tip: Don’t feel like you have to jump in, feet first. Take the time to educate yourself and create a plan with micro steps. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. The greater mistake is to do nothing.

I Feel Overwhelmed. Who Can Help Me?

In the perfect world, we would proudly announce our goal success and accept our accolades. We’d blush and say it’s no big deal. The reality is most goal success requires not only hard work, but often times requires help from others. It’s not that we couldn’t do it by ourselves, but sometimes asking for or seeking guidance can make a huge difference in the speed and ease we reach our goals.

Some equate asking for help as failure because we feel we should be able to do it ourselves. But that’s not true. It’s smart to seek the counsel of those who have the knowledge you need and already succeeded in the area you seek success in as well. In some instances, you may need to pay for their services, but there are also plenty of free resources too. Either way, don’t let your fear of admitting you need help or confessing your mistakes prevent you from working with someone who can help put you on the path to the life you want.

Goal Success Tip: Remember your mistakes do not define who you are. Most likely the person who can help you has already heard stories just like yours and/or experienced something similar themselves. Know that a good professional or someone truly dedicated to helping you will not judge you and you should not fear telling them your story.

It is hard to fail, but it is worse  never to have tried to succeed. Theodore Roosevelt

Emotional Fears that Prevent Goal Success

Our emotion-based fears are probably the more debilitating of the two. Our tactical fears can slow us down while unaddressed emotional fears can cripple us if we let them.

I Don’t Want to Fail, so It Is Safer to Not Even Try.

We want to succeed but we deeply fear failing. We were taught at a young age to root for winners, not losers. We see failing as losing and are humiliated by our failures. In fact, the fear of failing (and having to share our failure with others) prevents us from moving forward. We’d rather not even go down the rabbit hole, then to fail publicly.

I don’t like to fail either. No one does. But I also know that my failures aren’t really failures either. They are attempts that didn’t work as intended. If I can take a step back and look at my actions neutrally (and yes, I recognize that is easier said than done), I can also learn something too. And if I apply what I learned, my next attempt may be a success or at least take me another step closer to success. It’s adjusting your perspective as to what really constitutes as failure.

Goal Success Tip: If the fear of failure is holding you back, then take a closer look as to why you fear failing. Was there a time where you “failed” previously that still haunts you? Adjust your definition of failure because the road to success is littered with failures. They only stop you if you let them.

I haven't failed. I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work. Thomas Edison

What If I Achieve My Goal and Nothing Changes?

We put a lot of pressure on our goals. If we get out of debt, reach financial freedom, lose weight, etc. … then we will be happy. Without a doubt, goal success does bring us joy, but it doesn’t necessarily change who we are though. Confucius said it best, “No matter where you go, there you are.” And that reality also stops people from taking action on their goals. They worry it won’t matter because they will still be themselves.

This mindset can sometimes lead to self-sabotage. We do well with our goals for a period of time, but as we get closer to goal achievement, we intentionally derail our forward movement. We may even decide to stop working towards our goals. I can’t tell you that goal success will make all your problems go away or that you’ll never experience a setback or a loss again. Goals are powerful, but not that powerful. What I can tell you is that you do deserve to live a good life and be happy.

Goal Success Tip: This is a tricky one as there are likely deep-seeded fears inside that need to be addressed. Don’t ignore them because they won’t go away on their own. You need to understand why you self-sabatoge your efforts. Do you do it because once you achieve a long-held goal, you’re not sure what to do next or fear the unknown? Do you think you’re not worthy of your goal? To help you uncover what holds you back, you may need to seek professional assistance or counseling. Once you get a handle on your emotions, you’ll find taking action to be much easier.

Don’t Let Fear Prevent You from Achieving Your Goals this Year

The idea that fear prevents you from achieving your goals may not sit well with someone of you. And it is an uncomfortable reality that I see regularly in successful, capable people. All of us has some fears that dwell inside of us. When left unchecked, they can also cloud our judgement and prevent goal achievement. Recognizing your fears and their affect on you goes a long ways towards overcoming them. I wish for everyone to see great success in 2015 and confronting any fears you have will increase the likelihood of 2015 being your year.

How has fear affected your goal success in the past? What did you do to overcome your fears?


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January 5, 2015  •  37 Comments  •  Goal-Setting

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  1. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Shannon, that's a good start. Fear can really shut us down. But, we have to acquire such mindset to fight back and face our fear. I prepare myself by knowing what holds me back and asking advice from someone before taking a risk. Most of the time, I must say it that faith is the solution. So let's do what it takes to conquer our fear.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Faith is absolutely the solution. We need to believe in ourselves and our ability to achieve our goals. And to remember that we don't have to do it by ourselves too. It's less scary that way!
  2. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Excellent post Shannon! Fear can be a funny thing, and we all deal with it at some level, but it can only hold us back in the long run. Fear was something that held me back when I was paying off my debt, to starting our business to my beginning to lose weight last year. It wasn't until I realized that I was holding myself/us back from my fear that I was actually able to take the steps needed to change things. I love your tip about breaking goals up into smaller steps! I've found that can help considerably with regards to making the given goal seem less overwhelming and easier to start attacking.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Thanks, John. Fear holds so many of us back and it's funny how when we finally face it that it is often not as scary/bad/hard as we think it will be. And yes, big goals can be so overwhelming but breaking them into small steps definitely makes it easier.
  3. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    LOVE what you wrote about failure here, Shannon. I've finally learned over the years that failure is simply an opportunity to do better next time. :-)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Thanks, Laurie. You are absolutely correct - failure is simply an opportunity to try again.
  4. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Fear is certainly one factor.....another one is just flat out not wanting it bad enough. If you say you want to loose weight, but don't want it as bad as you want that bag of chips every day when you get home from work....well....you won't be successful.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Very true, Travis. Often times we want things but we want them to be easy and when it's not, we won't do the necessary work to achieve what we want. Wanting is a good start but it's not enough by itself.
  5. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    I know a lot of people, myself included, are afraid to set goals or try new things because of the fear to fail. I now understand that failure is okay as long as I tried. Wayne Gretzky said, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      The fear of failure is something many of us struggle with. It feels so personal. But like you said, failure means you tried and now know one way that doesn't work. :)
  6. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Great post! "The greater mistake is to do nothing." Word! I think two things: people are afraid to try something because they won't be 100% perfect at it, so they don't do anything at all. Or two, which is they go gung-ho, let's say like exercise, then if they slip up they forget the whole thing. I'm more guilty of #1, which is something I've been working very hard to overcome. I'm taking a lot more chances these days and just saying screw it if I mess up or fail. That's why I love the quote from Wayne Gretzky where he says: you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. This is my year (and part of last year) to be ballsy. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Great points, Tonya! We do fear doing things if we can't do it right the first time out of the gate, which is more my fear too. But as I've grown older, I find that I'm not as fear about making mistakes. Aldo shared that quote and it is great one. When we let fear rule us, that is when we truly lose. And I wish you luck in being ballsy this year, Tonya! I can't to see what you achieve!
  7. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Great post and just what I needed right now! I was just thinking I shouldn't even try because I'm scared what I want to do and work on won't work out. That fear is the only thing stopping me from achieving it! I've let fear ruin too many things in life so that needs to stop!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      It's okay to be afraid, Fig. In fact, it's very normal. Don't let it control you or your dreams. Create a plan, talk to those who have accomplished what you want and have faith. And if it doesn't work out the first time, now you know one way that didn't work and can try a different approach. You can do it!
  8. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Failure is often a great teacher. That's how I look at it now but before I was so unhappy when I didn't succeed at a goal or project. I also agree with enlisting the support of select people who can help you to keep up with your goals. Fear keeps us back from living a full life and we have to discover ways to push through the fear, feel it and do it anyway.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Very true, Kassandra. We may fear failure but when we approach it right - it is one of the best teachers. Sometimes when I feel fear these days then I know that I am on the right track. :)
  9. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    I actually used to never make resolutions because I would always fail at them and I had a fear of failure for most of my life. Now I realized that resolutions are just goals in disguise and when you create SMART goals for things you are truly passionate about, there is no failure other than not pursuing them.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Absolutely, Shannon! Resolutions are just goals in disguise and goals are just markers to creating our ideal life. When you create goals that you truly care about, it's so much easier to do the work because not doing it, is too high of a price to pay.
  10. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Setting and accomplishing goals is something I am good at - seriously. But that is not by chance. I am good at them because I make a plan that is realistic and set deadlines for myself. Without the deadlines and scheduling on my calendar my goals would just be ideas. Great post!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      And that's truly the key to goal success - being realistic and setting deadlines. Otherwise it is very easy to stay stuck in dream/idea stage! I'm glad goals are easy for you because it's definitely not a skill everyone has.
  11. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    Lack of motivation is a HUGE stumbling block. January comes and you're all gung-ho and then it's February and then it's just...meh. I think you are absolutely right that we put too much pressure on ourselves with goal setting. We are definitely creatures of habit :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      Very true, Mackenzie. It's easy to get caught up in the new goal stage where you are so excited to only lose interest or get distracted by life.
  12. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    There are so many fears that hold us back, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of what others might think. Blogging is a perfect example of something I used to be afraid of for all those reasons, but I'm so glad I jumped in anyway. The older I get, the less I care about fears, but I also find myself getting comfortable sometimes and not reaching as hard for goals as I probably should.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, January 5th, 2015
      I'm the same way, Kim. I still don't "like" failing but it doesn't bother me the way it did when I was younger or hold me back from trying. Getting too comfortable can be a problem too, although it's not quite as bad when you are in a good place financially and professionally as you are now.
  13. Monday, January 5th, 2015
    I think the biggest culprit is fear of failure, as you pointed out. I think it really impacts millennials, because we are taught to not fail at anything, and any sort of failure is criticized. If you can get past that fear of failure, though, it can be incredible what you can accomplish.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
      Very true, DC. These days our lives are so exposed and scrutinized, which makes our fear of failure grow stronger. But you are right - if you can get past your fear - you can accomplish amazing things.
  14. Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
    Hi Shannon,

    Happy New Year! Oh my goodness, I've lost count of how many times fear has stopped me from trying something new. It truly is my number one enemy.

    And you're right about acknowledging what our fears are so that we can move forward. This might sound weird but one day whie I was driving home from dropping off my kids at school I heard a song from Kirk Franklin called Hello Fear. Oh my goodness...that was so therapeutic for me and it helped me not be afraid of fear and really tell it goodbye.

    I made a goal to challenge myself and start new projects I've held back on. I don't know what will happen but at least I'll know I tried.

    Great post and happy to share this. Wishing you a prosperous 2015! Happy Tuesday Shannon :).
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
      It's amazing how a song or a quote or story can inspire us to conquer our fear. I'm glad you're challenging yourself to start projects you've held back on. You're an amazing woman, Corina, and I am confident that whatever you put your attention to will be fantastic.
  15. Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    Fear is a very powerful thing that is controlling. I try not to let it overcome my goals, but it has before.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, January 8th, 2015
      I think everyone has let fear control their lives at some point but I'm glad that you're not letting it do it anymore.
  16. Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    You make some great points here Shannon. Fear of failure is a big one that holds people back. My problem in 2014 was setting goals out of the blue without enough info to back them up. Now that I know what to expect, my goals for 2015 are more realistic and achievable (I hope). If I meet them early, I can always raise the goal to keep myself challenged. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, January 8th, 2015
      Many people set goals without a solid plan in place to accomplish them. But you kept working at your goals last year and now have the experience to be more realistic. And yes - you can also add goals to keep you challenged!
  17. Monday, June 8th, 2015
    Shannon, solid work on this article. I'm sure you see people who afraid to make any big financial decisions for fear of failing. I know I have seen it. Individuals really have to believe that they can change their situation and achieve their goals. If they don't, nothing changes.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan