Here’s Why You Keep Failing to Achieve Your Goals

There are five behavioral patterns at play that stop you in your tracks


Omar Itani

3 years ago | 8 min read

Have you ever wondered why you keep failing to achieve your goals?

You can blame it on procrastination or the lack of time or on overly ambitious targets, but the reality is this: It takes more than just setting a target and putting a system in place to achieve our goals. There are behavioral patterns at play that stop us in our tracks.

I’ve learned this the hard way.

I failed at achieving my business goals because I rushed into building it. I repeatedly failed at building new habits until I realized that I will never be able to sustain them if I keep expecting immediate results. Three times I drove myself back into financial debt because I wasn’t aware of the subconscious behavioral patterns that were continuously leading me to fall back into irrational spending.

“You got this far operating under one set of assumptions. Abandoning those assumptions and embracing a new, bigger set may be exactly what you need to to do get to the next level.” — Seth Godin

Here are the 5 major behavioral patterns that are stopping you from achieving your goals. Deal with them immediately — abandon them — and you will set in motion the ripples that will help you to finally achieve the goals you want in your life.

1. You want it now, so you keep rushing

We live in a world that’s obsessed with “overnight success” — a term that was swiftly interchanged for “10 years in the making.”

It’s wired us to believe that great things can be achieved quickly. At least I was a victim of this thinking. I rushed into building up my business trying to do everything all at once. What happened? I crashed.

We enthusiastically rush toward our goals with the delusion that “one giant leap” will get us there, when in truth, what stands between where we are today and where we want to be is a gap so large, it can only be crossed at a pace of a thousand small steps.

So why do we rush?

It’s because we think and act like life is short. But, it’s not. Life is not short — life is long. You make it short when you rush into your goals and expect immediate results. You make it short when you run yourself into burnout and then spend a few months recovering from it. You make it short when you live life fast, creating an illusion of a necessary rush.

You aren’t achieving your goals because you keep rushing toward them. The slower and steadier you work toward your goals, the more sustainable the change will be, the more likely you are to grow and expand in the process of getting there.

You achieve your goals one day at a time. So slow down and stop rushing — you have time.

2. You don’t value progress, so you keep expecting immediate results

You expect immediate results because you overestimate your abilities and underestimate how long real change takes.

Anytime I naively expected immediate results, I struggled to stay on course, and so I prematurely abandoned my efforts. And this is the primary reason why we all struggle with building new habits or reaching our goals: It takes time, but we want it now, so we neglect the progress we’re making and chase the result instead.

That’s exactly why I moved from an outcome-based goal-setting system to a more mindful input-output system.

When we move from an outcome-based approach to an input-output one, we create a distinction between the input of our actions and the outcome of the results. We detach ourselves from the results, and so we no longer look to the future for a sense of fulfillment. We start to focus on the effort we are putting in, with the conviction that if we keep showing up and slowly — but consistently — putting in the work, we will achieve our goals over the long-run.

Goals and results take time so stop expecting immediate results. Focus on the process and your progress — that’s all that matters.

You don’t need to write a book in one month, you can write it one page at a time, one day at a time and you’d have a 365-page book by the end of the year. You don’t need to build a profitable business within your first six months, you can do it one day at a time over the next two years.

When you start thinking this way, you start to realize that you don’t need to rush to the finish line, because there isn’t one. There is nowhere to “arrive to.”

Goals and results take time so stop expecting immediate results. Focus on the process and your progress — that’s all that matters.

3. You’re self-sabotaging because of unconscious patterns, so you keep repeating the same mistakes

Our rush toward our goals will drain our energy and that will lead us to abandon them. After which the cycle repeats itself: We set new goals and fall back into the same trap. But the problem isn’t in the new goals. The problem is us re-engaging with behavioral patterns that continue to sabotage our growth.

That’s because we never took the time to understand why we failed in achieving our goals the first time. So we continue to make the same mistakes again.

If you don’t understand why you can’t commit to any relationship, you’re bound to fall short on your next attempt. If you don’t know why you fell into financial debt the first time, you’re bound for disappointment the second time. It happened to me three times until I paused and dug deeper into why I was behaving the way I was. I realized that it was driven by the subconscious belief that someone will always bail me out (as my parents had done the few times I made terrible financial decisions in my early twenties).

Self-sabotage is one of the main reasons we fail to achieve anything in life, and it’s nothing more than repeated patterns of unconscious behavior.

When we work from a mindful input-output system, we learn to be more observant of our habits and behavioral patterns. This happens as we begin to shift our attention away from the outcome and onto our actions.

We start asking ourselves:

“What limiting beliefs do I need to let go of in order to confidently build a habit of writing and finally publish my book? What motives are sabotaging me from acting like a more thoughtful person and making this relationship work? What habits and mindset do I need to change if I wish to stop falling back into financial debt?”

Identify the subconscious thought patterns you need to change and create a new blueprint for sustainable change. Because it’s not about whether or not you can do it a few times, it’s about whether or not you can do it once and then keep going.

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-sabotage is one of the main reasons we fail to achieve anything in life, and it’s nothing more than repeated patterns of unconscious behavior. Observe these patterns and irradiate them — that’s how you stop standing in your own sunshine.

4. You’re not intrinsically motivated because you’re working toward goals that aren’t yours

We grow up building a life for someone we’ve never met.

The 10-year-old-you designed dreams for the 20-year-old-you, who then created goals for the 30-year-old-you. But who you were — and what mattered to you — ten years ago might no longer hold the same value to you today.

There’s often an alarming disconnect between what we think we need to pursue and what we actually want. We’re just oblivious to it because we don’t take the time to self-reflect. We cling onto our childhood dreams, but we forget that we are now adults, and we are no longer the same person we were back then: Our goals, dreams, and values have changed.

Set goals for who you are today, and how you are actively becoming; not who you were yesterday and who you thought you would want to be today.

Perhaps you haven’t started that business because you’re clinging onto a long-lost dream to be an entrepreneur, but you don’t actually want to be one anymore. Perhaps you haven’t started writing because you’re clinging onto a long-lost dream of becoming a writer, but you don’t actually want to be one anymore.

Even worse, perhaps you aren’t motivated to work toward your goals because you didn’t set them for yourself — you set them to prove your parents wrong or to create a perception of success in the eyes of another.

Set goals for who you are today, and how you are actively becoming; not who you were yesterday, and who you thought you would want to be today. And most importantly, set goals for yourself, not for your mom, or dad, or friend.

5. You don’t want it bad enough so you’re not willing to consistently put in the necessary work

Achieving goals takes time, energy, and effort and requires a great sense of discomfort. It demands that you be consistent in showing up and putting in the necessary work for as long as it takes because that’s the only measure of whether or not you will have a chance at achieving your goals.

If you want to achieve your goals and dreams or better habits, you need to be consistent. You must be willing to trade something in for it. You must be willing to sacrifice. You must be willing to prioritize working for your goals above all else. This is not an opinion of mine. This is a universal truth.

Olympic athletes spend four to eight years of training in a sport before making an Olympic team. For 20 years, Michael Phelps practiced every single day in the pool for three to six hours, five days a week.

There are a thousand steps along the way and there are no hacks. You have to be willing to walk each and every one of them knowing that there is no easy way through. So you must want it bad enough that you give yourself no other option but to keep going. That’s how you beat procrastination and achieve your goals. It’s as simple as that.

“When you really want something, the question isn’t ‘How will you get it?’, it’s ‘What could possibly stop you?” — Michael Neill

What Matters to You

Here’s how you achieve your goals:

  1. Stop rushing toward them; slow down.
  2. Stop expecting immediate results; focus on progress instead.
  3. Observe, address, and eradicate your subconscious patterns that are self-sabotaging your progress.
  4. Stop setting goals to please others; set goals for yourself and who you are consciously becoming.
  5. Want it bad enough that you accept no other option but to be consistent.
This article was originally published by Omar itani on medium.


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Omar Itani

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