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The simple word “Goals” can evoke different feelings for different people. For some, it’s an exciting word that activates them. For others, it’s a stressful word that comes with feelings of guilt or shame. Depending on whether you set your own goals or feel that goals are assigned to you, you likely respond differently to that little four-letter word “goal.”

If you have abandoned goals in the past, you’re not alone. Research out of the Journal of Substance Abuse shows that 77 percent of individuals drop New Year’s resolutions after about a week. Only 19 percent carry on with the goal for two years. That elicits the all-important question: what do those 19 percent do differently? Based on the study, it involves a combination of their own habits and social support. For the record, even those 19 percent had some slip-ups due to stress, lack of self-discipline or negative emotions. Beyond those temporary slips, here are perpetual habits that make it hard to reach goals.


Feeling Guilty About Success


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The actions required to reach a goal are not the issue for some ambitious individuals. Instead, it’s the results that intimidate them. Fear of success if a real thing. In some cases, it’s feeling guilty about success. There are many reasons one can have negative emotions surrounding success. There’s fear surrounding not meeting the new level of challenges that come with success. There’s fear surrounding being in the spotlight. However, a big one that many ambitious individuals report is fear of losing their social circle. To some degree, your current network might depend on your current status. Getting ahead could mean losing your “pack.” A piece published in The Psychology Group shows there can be fear of leaving what’s called “The Wolf Pack” if you become successful. Do remember that anyone who cares about you and wants the best for you will maintain a relationship with you, even if you become more successful than them.


Being Overly Ambitious


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Ambition is a great thing, but one human can only accomplish so much in one day. That’s not a negative sentiment, but rather an important fact to understand when planning and prioritizing goals. Some individuals have too many goals at once, which makes it difficult to focus on any given one. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be great at one thing than mediocre at a dozen. But furthermore, perfecting one skill or completing one goal before moving on to the next makes it easier to build a repertoire of skills. If you focus on getting good at just one act or making one habit a regular part of your life, eventually, you’ll do it without thinking about it. It will be habitual and can be completed without your higher-level attention – similar to how, after years of driving, you can think about other things while driving besides operating a vehicle. It’s called automaticity. Achieving it with one goal frees up your mental real estate to work on additional goals.


Overthinking And Underdoing


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Otherwise known as paralysis by analysis. Humans can become stuck in the obsession with the idea that the very first step they take towards a goal must be perfect. Planning is an important part of reaching goals (we’ll get to that next), but there needs to be room for some spontaneity and learning as you go. If you refuse to take even your first step towards a goal until you believe every single step until the very end is perfectly planned, then you’ll likely never take that first step. You’ll never feel confident that every step is perfectly planned.


Only Seeing The Big Picture


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For some, the problem exists at the opposite end of over-analysis. That problem is under planning or no planning at all. You can state that your goal is to grow your brand’s social media following by 10,000 by the end of the year. However, you must lay out detailed steps on how that is done. Perhaps it’s about following five new relevant accounts daily, keeping an ongoing log of relevant hashtags to use and creating an original video every week. Without specific steps like that, you can wake up every day with the big picture goal without a clue as to what you’ll do that day to get closer to it.


Failing To Enforce Boundaries


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Working towards goals requires self-discipline. Self-discipline is so powerful, in fact, that the American Psychological Association says that self-discipline is a greater predictor of academic success in students than IQ is. That study speaks to the importance of doing the work versus simply having natural talent. Self-discipline will be involved in one more important thing, beyond just doing the work: boundaries. You might be set on spending the day on your goals, but friends, family and neighbors might have something else in mind. Other people can easily derail your goals if you let them. They want your time. They want your attention. They tempt you to have fun instead of work. You’ll need to exhibit self-discipline when it comes to enforcing boundaries with outsiders.


Not Telling Anybody


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If you keep quiet about your goals in order to stay humble, you could be holding yourself back. A study in the American Psychological Association shows that sharing your goal, particularly with someone you perceive as higher up, motivates you to achieve it. There’s that desire to impress someone you see as a role model and once you announce to them what your goal is, you don’t want to let them down by not reaching it. The study does emphasize the importance of sharing that goal with someone you perceive as successful in the very area you hope to be successful in. So, telling your BFF or mother won’t have the same effect.


Being Unrealistic About Your Tendencies


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You know your tendencies. You understand which of the many tools available to you you will actually use. The greatest tool in the world is not useful if you won’t touch it. So, for example, if your goal is to start a podcast, you could rent a professional podcasting studio, complete with a sound mixer, for $150 an hour. However, maybe you know that if you go that route, you’ll never record even one episode. Then, there are apps that let you start recording from home, for free. If you know that leaving your home and spending money on the podcast, every time you want to record an episode, isn’t a sustainable model for you, find one that is.

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