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Mental Health

Why You Aren't Reaching Your Goals

Why You Aren't Reaching Your Goals


Your willpower might not be to blame. Perhaps it's your goals that are the problem.

Setting goals can be exciting. They make us feel empowered: Taking a stand to do something in our own best interest is a giant step forward in life. 

But the day-to-day work toward reaching goals is not so easy. Life seems to get in the way and, before you know it, not only has the goal not been reached, but you may not recall exactly what you did toward meeting it. The result is frustration and disappointment. And beating up on yourself. 

In my experience, there are a few reasons why people don’t meet their goals. For one thing, their goals aren’t specific enough. They set goals like “eating better,” “getting more exercise,” or “having more friends.” Or their goals aren’t realistic, like “lose 20 pounds by spring” (when it’s already March). Or they don't really know what to do to reach their goals. 

So here are some ideas to consider when you set goals: 

1. Set specific goals. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and what that would look like. For example, not just having more friends but adding one new friend to your support network, not just losing weight but losing ten pounds. 

2. Set goals that are realistic. You remember that phrase, one day at a time. You can also set smaller goals that are realistic for you. If you have a timeframe in mind, is it realistic?  Do you have the finances to realize your goal? Are there factors outside of your control that you need to consider? Look at the potential constraints and consider modifying your goal. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. And keep in mind that when you reach a goal you can always create a new one. 

3. Make your goals action-oriented and positive. It’s always a good idea to write your goals someplace, and then refer to them. And when you do that, write them in a way that will be motivating, and not feel like you are scolding yourself. Rather than setting a goal like “stop sitting around so much,” write it as “get two hours of fun exercise each week.” Or, instead of “stop feeling so lonely and down in the dumps,” write your goal as “spend one evening each week with a supportive friend.” 

Don’t let working toward your goals become an exercise in futility. Instead, develop powerful, achievable goals that you can live with — and that will help you to live better. 


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Gary McClain