Having goals in life is a wonderful thing- they can energize us and improve our lifestyle as well as our self-esteem. When we are constantly achieving them, that is. Having life goals that are unmet can instead leave us feeling like a big failure.
Knowing how to set measurable, achievable goals is essential, and a process like S.M.A.R.T goal setting, often used in CBT Therapy, is highly recommended. But what if you have used the S.M.A.R.T. Model, you are sure that your goal in life is reasonable, and yet still you find yourself screaming, “Why can’t I achieve my goals no matter how hard I try?!” Or find yourself stuck in a cycle of self-defeat that seems never-ending?
Read this list of common reasons why we sabotage life goals to find out where you might be going wrong and how you can finally find your way to the success you deserve.
7 Reasons Your Life Goals Have Eluded You
1. It’s not the goal you really want.
The truth is, if a life goal is really in line with our genuine hopes and values, we tend to make it happen. The problem is that often we have convinced ourselves we want something when really it’s because we think we should want it- perhaps it is what society deems as desirable, what our peers want, or what our parents have raised us to want. Take time to learn what really makes your heart sing and be honest with yourself if perhaps you need to reconsider your goals- after all, you deserve to live the life that makes you happy, not others.
2. You are afraid to change your mind.
Often we set our life goals, then go out and heal and change as a person… but hold onto a goal that we’ve actually outgrown! There is absolutely no shame in changing your life goals. It’s better to set goals and change them than to never set any life goals at all. After all, you learn from trying new things. So give yourself credit for making an effort, acknowledge that you can’t achieve a goal if it no longer suits you, then let it go and set a life goal that you can really feel passionate about.
3. You are overly attached to the process.
Sometimes we don’t achieve our life goals because we become so attached to what working towards the goal gives us we don’t want to have it all end. For example, if we have set the goal of becoming a professional artist, we can constantly take art classes which gives us a fun social life and is free of the pressure of having to organise shows and consistently produce quality pieces that achieving our goal would entail. We can also constantly moan with others who are trying to be artists about how hard it is, and revel in self-pity and camaraderie, which we couldn’t do if we were a success. The trick is to get honest with yourself about what getting to the end of your life goal will mean giving up, then remind yourself of all the better things achieving your goal will offer you instead.
4. You are too focussed on the future.
Goals manifest in the future, but to get to the future we have to take action in the present. If we are incessantly focused on our hoped for future we can enter a sort of paralysis where we find ourselves thinking more than doing, constantly procrastinating, and/or experiencing extreme anxiety. Even worse, we can so distracted by thinking of what could be we miss valuable opportunities right in front of our nose that are actually shortcuts to our life goal being achieved.
Make a life goals worksheet or yourself. Set your goal, break it into smaller goals, and then break those smaller goals into actionable steps you can schedule in over the course of the year. Then relax that you have a plan and focus on being in the present moment and noticing all that it brings. If this is a real challenge for you, consider learning the practise of mindfulness.
5. You are too worried about what other people think.
Sometimes we will get very close to achieving a goal and then avoid success because we are so worried about what other people will think. Will they see us as vain, or a big shot? The truth is that most people are so busy thinking about themselves, and their own successes and failures, they aren’t as concerned about we are doing as we want to believe. Try giving yourself a bigger perspective- imagine you are retired in a nursing home looking back on your life. Are you going to remember what others thought about you, or are you going to remember the thrill you got from achieving your dreamed of life goal?
6. Your core beliefs are sabotaging your life goals.
Core beliefs are the deep unconscious rules we have set for ourselves, often things we picked up as children, and typically things that are completely contrary to what we think we want. Core beliefs sound like, ‘I am not worthy of success’, ‘nobody likes a winner’, ‘only arrogant people want to do well in life’. They work like a secret software running beneath our conscious awareness and sabotaging our very best efforts.
According to cognitive neuroscientists we are conscious of only about 5% of our brain’s activity, so most of our decisions and actions actually come from the subconscious. If our subconscious is full of negative core beliefs it won’t allow us to achieve something positive. You will need to take the time to go within and get honest about your deeply held beliefs.
7. You are addicted to feeling bad about yourself.
This might sound unlikely- who would actually want to feel bad? Actually, many of us. If we had a childhood where we were constantly belittled or punished feeling bad about ourselves will actually be our comfort zone. And if it was someone we deeply loved who always shamed us there is a chance our mind has mixed up this painful feeling of shame with love, and we will actually seek out feeling bad to the extent it can be addictive.
So no wonder we are not able to set goals and achieve them, as that would mean we had to feel successful and happy, two things we don’t know how to experience. If this sounds familiar, perhaps the life goal you need to set for now is learning how to actually let yourself be comfortable with feeling good and having a sense of self-worth.
How Therapy Can Help You Achieve Your Life Goals
A counsellor or psychotherapist can be an invaluable aid in helping you with how to set life goals that leave you content and in tune with who you really are. Talking therapies like person-centred therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy are wonderful at helping you identify the childhood patterns keeping you trapped. They also help you see who you are outside of the world you live in and what your life goals and passions are outside of those of your peers and family. And they can really help you identify hidden core beliefs that are no longer serving you, too.
If you feel that it’s more your out of control thoughts and the anxiety they produce that is stopping you from achieving your goals then CBT Therapy might really help. It specialises in looking at black and white thinking and how your thoughts are determining your actions or lack of action. Whatever kind of therapy you do choose, they can all help you turn seeming problems into new life goals that move you forward.
Have you had experience with any of the seven ‘life goal saboteurs’ above? And did you find therapy helpful? Or do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Please comment below, we love hearing from you.