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Why You Keep Failing To Reach Your Goals

You’re going to need to dig a little deeper to get what you want.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Why do we find it so hard to stick to and achieve our goals? It could be paying off debt, losing weight, or quitting smoking.

These goals are very rational, sensible, and have a clear and objective benefit to us. And yet, they’re so easily derailed by sudden whims.

In a brief moment we do what we want, and then later are filled with regret and frustration that we weren’t more disciplined.

The reason is that we’re not thinking about our goals the right way.

Using Logic and Rationality

Most goals are set in a vacuum. We come up with a plan of what we’re going to do and convince ourselves that it’s going to be different this time. We’re not going to mindlessly spend money. We going to start exercising every day.

We don’t think about why we’re doing it beyond the obvious, logical reasons because they’re self-evident. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll benefit from doing it.

Most goals are inherently good for us, and so we don’t need to consider convincing ourselves why we should achieve them. We just know we should.

But these rational arguments aren’t going to keep you on track during the long hard slog towards achieving your goal. They don’t stand up when the pressure is on or you're tempted towards something else.

Having emotion-based goals is what’s going to keep you on track.

Your Emotional Side

There is an emotional element at the core of everything we do, stemming from an evolutionary need for survival. This is what drives us, often without us knowing it. It’s an intrinsic motivator that guides our day-to-day decisions.

The challenge is that as humans we’re easily distracted and often prioritize short-term gratification over long-term success. In other words, we let impulsive emotions take over.

Impulsive emotions are strong — much stronger than rational thinking. The only way you can overcome these impulsive emotions is to identify the core emotion behind your goal. That is what’s called an emotion-based goal.

The goal itself isn’t any different — what you’re doing is doing some introspection on the emotional side of why you want to achieve it.

This process, while potentially challenging, gives insight into exactly why you want to do something, providing reinforcement and helping strengthen discipline for when you’re tempted to deviate from your goal.

Find The Emotional Core

To find the emotional core of your goal, you just need to ask yourself one question: “Why?”. And like a curious child, just keep asking “why?”, chipping away at the outer layers until you find your truth.

Why do you want to lose weight? So I look better.

Is that the only reason? No, I also want to be healthier.

Why do you want to be healthier? So I have fewer health problems.

Why do you want to have fewer health problems? So I don’t cut my life short and miss out on all the things I want to do.

This is an over-simplified example to demonstrate the approach, but in reality, would take a lot more questions, and perhaps not follow a linear path.

While seemingly straightforward, it’s essential to uncover the truth about why you want to achieve the goal. In practice, you’re going to really need to dig into yourself and ask yourself probing questions.

Find some time and write out your questions and answers in a notepad so you can clearly see your progression towards the emotional core. Putting it in writing will help you organize your thoughts and also lets you revisit as you work towards your goal.

The emotional basis of goals largely falls into these categories: safety and security of yourself and your family, survival, and freedom. But it won’t work you just jumping straight to this point. You need the introspection, to really look inside yourself, to find your truth, in order for this to work.

A New Frame Of Mind

The process of finding the emotional core of your goal is simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

You may need to confront things about yourself and your life and open yourself up to think about scenarios and possibilities that you’d rather not have to imagine. But it’s all worth it.

Understanding your true motivation will help you stay disciplined and on track much more than surface-level motivators. It needs to be connected to something intrinsic to sustain what’s needed to achieve them.

Because you’re working towards something bigger than just having more money in the bank or a smaller number on the scales — you’re achieving a better life.

Key Points

  • Goals that use rational or logical reasoning are quick to crumble when you’re tempted to deviate.

  • To be successful in achieving your goals you need to dig deep and uncover the emotional core which underpins why you want to achieve this goal.

  • While this may be a challenging process, you’ll know what achieving the goal really means to you, and knowing this will keep you from losing focus.

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