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Goals. Avoiding the failure trap.

If you’re familiar with the coaching world, you’ve probably heard the theory that without goals, one might as well be wandering aimlessly through life. For most parts, there’s probably an element of truth in this. Not to shun on the importance of presence and living in the moment, but it’s undeniable, that we humans want to be moving forward.

Whether we know it or not, we’re inherently driven by reward, or a deeper purpose that lies within us. For many of us, this often translates into goals. The things we strive to achieve, that we want to accomplish – whether personal or professional. Big, small, or indifferent, the purpose is to provide us with motivation to achieve something of value to us.

But for our generation – who are predisposed to perfectionism, high achieving, and instant gratification syndrome – goal setting, and the achievement of those goals, can sometimes go haywire.

We know that traditionally the New Year is the time of goal setting. We hit January 1st with a rejuvenated sense of motivation: committed to achieving more, doing more, being better… and then to our disappointment, sometimes find before the end of the month we’re not in any way where we want, or expect, to be.


Quite simply, because of 1) things that get in the way or 2) because we set ourselves up for failure from the start.

Often when we set goals, we don’t factor in any type of contingency – i.e. those things that get in the way that are outside of our control. You know, life. Excited by the prospect of moving toward something important, we set the goal, stick a date on it and dive right in. We start making excellent progress and then suddenly something happens that we didn’t expect. Things that show up that we suddenly need to prioritize, like work, family, or health. While some of us can adopt an agile mindset and pivot, for others, we lose confidence in the goal, and give up.

This isn’t helped by the fact that we’re living in a society that is driven by achievements. We don’t have to look very far to see the accolades and applause people are receiving for the things they’ve achieved. On one hand it’s wonderful as it can inspire us; however, on the other, it can open a doorway of self-criticism as we start to measure ourselves against others. Imposter syndrome banging at the door.

The outcome is our internal (and unhelpful) perfectionist and high achieving selves are sent into a flurry of all types of conflict. In turn, leading us to internalize feelings of failure or “not good enough”, leading to the extremes of 1) pushing ourselves to the brink of stress by trying to achieve our goals often with a “running out of time” mentality or 2) giving up entirely.

Neither situation serving us well. And both cases, adversely impacting our mental health and wellbeing.

So how can we avoid this and instead create an environment that is more willing to serve us?

The following list are some simple, practical tips that can help you:

  • Be intentional with your goals and clear on your why. If you connect with the purpose behind your goals, and create an emotional connection, you’ll naturally move in the direction.

  • Be realistic. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by being practical about what you can achieve. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

  • Create habits that take you toward your goal. For example, adopting a micro-step approaching and taking one small action a day toward your goal. This will allow you to develop a rhythm. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Get rid of the “all or nothing” mindset. It won’t help you progress.

  • Protect your goals. They are yours and yours alone. Honor them and resist the urge to compare yourselves to others.

  • Give yourself permission to be flexible. If you don’t quite reach the deadline, you’ve set then move it.

  • Make it as much about the journey as it is the end goal; it’ll be far more rewarding.

  • Release the need to be perfect otherwise you will limit your ability to move forward.

  • Remember that life can get in the way and it’s normal.

  • Be flexible with your goal and modify it if you need to. If you find you need to tweak, spice it up or pivot, then do it.

  • Finally, give yourself permission to fail. We all do! If you don’t achieve the goal, then simply reset and use it as an opportunity for growth.

Goals should be fun. They should bring joy and excitement to your life. So make sure when you’re planning your goals this year, you’re adopting a positive, healthy mindset. One that involves being kind, gentle, flexible, and open as you move in the direction of where you want to go – while at the same time, enjoying life (even if it does get in the way).

If you’re looking for some extra tips to keep you motivated, or want to share your goals, reach out to us here at MMW. We’d love to hear from you!


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