Goals - Why we struggle to achieve them
Despite the fact I’m a positive person the reality we face when trying to achieve goals is pretty bleak at best. I know, it’s hardly motivational but, the stats don’t lie, according to the University of Scranton 92% of people who set goals will fail to achieve them.
Think about this for one minute, we live in an age where you can simply go online and find videos that will give you step by step instruction on what you need to do and how you need to do anything. Lose weight, get fit, improve your intelligence, get a job promotion, start a business or just make money, the list goes on however, despite this wealth of information, success blueprints and strategies of how to do things, only 1% of the world are millionaires and the overwhelming majority of people in the west are overweight, obese, and/or have a mental health issue.
The struggle is very real, but why is it so difficult to achieve our goals? The answer is simply, you! I’m going to show you exactly why we struggle so much and unlock the thinking process which has been holding you back.
Before I take you on this journey of discovery allow me to explain how I’ve discovered this to be true. Firstly, one my personal philosophies that governs the way I operate is the use of first principles. First principle thinking is the foundation for any successful concept and it’s incredibly liberating. Knowing what is true through deep analysis and then building from those truths creates a strong concept, idea, method or strategy. With my years of experience as a personal trainer and coach delivering over 20,000 1-2-1 private sessions in Liverpool and on the Wirral, I’ve drawn strong conclusions as to why people can and can’t achieve their goals. Once I was clear from my own analysis, I then researched the world’s top thought leaders, practitioners and, successful individuals. I compared my own findings with their experience, knowledge, research and outcomes to find complete congruence with my observations which formed a number of key principles.
Side note - Poor habits and behaviours are deeply tied into the way we think so if you have trouble with existing habits then here's a powerful blog and framework on how to master habits here.. 4 Steps to create habits that stick
I then applied these principles to my own life, when reflecting I could see exactly why I had failed in the past and, why I had succeeded within different areas. I used them for my new life goals which is propelling me forward at a rapid rate towards all my dreams today. Quite simply, with the embodiment of these principles wild horses couldn’t drag me away from achieving my goals!
The principles I will soon share with you are far from new concepts, they are so old they date back to the days of the Stoics and even well before Christ but, despite their ancient origins they have proved robust across civilisations to our generations this present day.
Back to why we struggle. We are repeatedly marketed/sold processes, blueprints, formulas etc. on how to achieve X. Although there is great simplicity in most things in life, it never comes without great difficulty. Example:
Lose Weight – Exercise everyday, sleep 7-8 hours, consume less calories than you burn and you’ve got the exact formula to lose weight.
Money – Save more money than you spend, invest that money you save and you’ve got the exact formula to become wealthy.
Do the most efficient things that provide the best outcomes for the least effort (Pareto’s 80/20 principle) and then keep the consistency of those right things going to build over time (The Compound effect) and you’ll soon reach your required goal. Simple isn’t it, I think not! Although scientific processes and formulas of science and nature are correct, the human application is where the true difficulty lies.
Humans are not robots, we are complex beings governed more by our emotions more than our intelligence. Our powerful emotions are influenced by a great deal of internal and external motivations that we inevitably encounter everyday.
Imagine for a second you set goals to be in great shape and also get a job promotion in work, one morning you receive a call informing you a close family member has been taken to hospital after being diagnosed with a life threatening disease. How do you think you’ll show up for work that day, will you be performing at your best? Will you be counting every single calorie? I don’t think so. The world is a tricky place for humans to navigate without even considering the difficulties of achieving goals.
People do not struggle to achieve their goals due to a lack of knowledge or unknown strategies, we have that at our finger tips, aunty Google and uncle You Tube tells us and even shows exactly how to do anything. Knowledge isn’t the issue, we struggle to achieve our goals because we do not understand who we must become in order to achieve them. There’s a particular mindset and several key attributes we need to develop in order for us to become mentally, physically and emotionally stronger to handle the difficult journey that lies ahead.
From the analysis of successful people, clinical literature and my years of experience, here is the observed mindset, principles & attributes that achievers embrace which, the majority of people simply lack.
- Personal Philosophy - A philosophy is not only a way of thinking, it’s also a way of being in the world, you already have your own philosophy that governs the way you think and behave whether you’re aware of it or not. Think of a philosophy as an operating system for how you show up each day, your thoughts, behaviours and actions all flow from this system which will be a collection of your values, beliefs, experiences, and knowledge of the way the world works. The more mindful you are of your operating system the more powerful it can become if, you choose to update it as you learn and grow throughout life. The unfortunate truth, most people have a poor operating system when it comes to achieving goals, their preexisting beliefs lead them down the wrong path which often results in failure or internal conflict. Many people end up becoming overweight, obese, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed with life and deeply unfulfilled because of their poor operating system despite the fact they have a desire to achieve their goal. Put simply, a poor philosophy can stop your efforts to accomplish what you desire, dead in it’s tracks. I have lost count the amount of times I’ve given clients and general public the exact advice on what they need to do but they fail to execute or simply don’t listen purely because it conflicts with the way they think. If you have a poor operating system (philosophy) the best advice, plans or systems will not be able to get you there! If you want to dig a little deeper on how particular way of thinking makes all the difference checkout my blog on Trainer vs Exerciser what's the difference
- Principles – As I mentioned earlier with regard to my own use of first principles, you can enjoy a liberated life when you apply your principles to your philosophy. Testing your own beliefs and knowing what is true creates a deeply fulfilled life knowing that you’re on the right path. This freedom provides a deep sense of internal motivation and a moral path for you to follow which you know will eventually lead to your goals and your ideal life. Principles based upon your philosophy provide a solid platform for you to discover your deep meaning and passions and the right goals for you! Not all goals are right for you but, with this mindset framework guiding you, your daily decision making and goals you set will always be in alignment of who you are and/or who you want to become. To find concrete facts on exercise to use as your own principles, have a read of this blog here
- Drive – Your driving forces should be goal orientated, it’s the things you want to accomplish internally, externally, materialistic or altruistic. Whatever you want must light you up on thought of accomplishing it, and with the solid framework of principles and philosophy guiding you, the power and excitement has a place to manifest and remain strong throughout your journey! The driving force is what keeps the internal fire burning. This internal motivation to achieve your goals will be a powerful obsession, hold a deep profound meaning and/or be something you love doing and have great excitement for. Ultimately, if your internal driving force is stronger than your excuses then you’ll still be able to take those difficult steps forwards on those days when your energy is at its lowest.
- Courage – It takes courage and bravery to make changes in your life, you’ll have to change the way you are if you want true transformation. Achieving goals demands the best of you, it requires you to do what's difficult and challenging therefore, you’ll have to embrace a good deal of discomfort. Typically, fear will present itself to you when change is negotiated, for one reason or another, putting things off is your way of avoiding the conscious or subconscious friction that is attached to the action or change you need to make. The only way to become more courageous is to expose yourself to the fears you hold, and keeping this mindset provides you with a strong signal that what you’re doing is important and the practice of courage will move you past all your hidden boundaries that are pulling you back from becoming the best version of who you are and what you want in life.
- Discipline – The key to achieving any goal is consistency of doing the right things repeatedly across a condensed period of time. In order to be consistent in what you do, you need a boat load of self-discipline. Humans have a finite amount of energy each day and during the days when energy is low and you feel fatigued, your internal driving force will be the difference between getting those disciplined tasks done or not. Discipline is the hardest part of achieving any goal however, this does become easier when you combine a good operating system (your philosophy) and a strong driving force motivating you to keep going. Delayed gratification is the core of self-discipline, putting up with discomfort today means you’ll benefit from incredible rewards in the future. The fact is, you’ll not reach what you desire without the practice of self-discipline.
- Focus – The ability to concentrate on what you’re doing is a vital component of achieving success. At times, you will need to learn and examine the details and nuances of what you are trying to accomplish. This is important because we all experience things in different ways hence, why the one same piece of good advice will be received differently by two different people depending on their psychology and experiences in life, therefore you will need to investigate the nuance and how the details apply to you, from this point you can make tweaks/refinements to get the best benefit from the initial piece of advice. In order to do this, you’ll need the ability to concentrate on what you’re doing. In today’s over distracted world this skill is dying, very few people have focused time on one task. Social media, emails, phone calls, the TV, print media and people around you are all fighting to get your attention which, makes focusing on tasks incredibly difficult. Learn how to focus and watch how quickly you move forward by gaining a new understanding on what you’re doing.
- Resilience - The close cousin of courage is the attribute you need to allow you to persevere. Along any goal journey there will be a inevitably be a great deal of small failures, set-backs, and disappointments which, we always have to negotiate, and it’s the resilience muscles of the mind is what allows you to keep on going when you meet these hurdles. If you’re a fan of the personal development world you’ll have undoubtedly heard the term ‘keep on failing’, the idea behind this statement is the discovery of finding out what doesn’t work until you eventually find out what does. It’s a strong idea and the resilience of an individual is what allows this concept. As you experience more set-backs over time and learn to negotiate them you’ll build incredibly strong resilience muscles, neural plasticity adaptations take place and you soon become accustomed to overcoming problems with little or no discomfort. As Denzel Washington famously said, ‘If you get knocked down 7 times, get up 8’.
These 7 key principles are a powerful combination of Mindset practices and personal attributes, they work completely synergistically and prove to be a powerful formula for personal effectiveness. From their ancient origins through to today they provide you with a complete psychological and physiological framework to become the person you need to be to achieve your desired goals. If you personally develop these areas as you move through your goal journey, you will achieve true transformation by becoming a much more powerful human being. Ultimately, you’ll become a goal achieving machine throughout all areas of your life.
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