Tools for success: 8 reasons people don’t achieve their goals

We at JFDI have spoken to hundreds if not thousands of people who have failed to achieve an important goal because they viewed it as “too hard” or “too big” to tackle. This article outlines the 8 key stumbling blocks to REAL success when it comes to goal achievement.

1.) NO “WHY”.

Often, people set goals that really don’t “mean anything” to them. Perhaps you’ve done this yourself? I know I have. A goal without a good reason behind achieving it is simply an idea. What we at 100 Days have found is that we are much more likely to be successful at accomplishing a goal that really spins our wheels for some reason. In other words, the “WHY” behind the goal must be compelling in some way for us (Deci and Ryan, 2000). In a research study of university student achievement of goals (Wigfield and Eccles, 1992) , the authors found that, even though goals may have been “S.M.A.R.T.” (see #2 below!), if the student didn’t perceive the goal as meaningful or valuable, their engagement with making progress toward achieving that goal diminished. A helpful way to identify the compelling reason behind a goal you’ve set for yourself is to ask yourself “why” at least 5 times. Here is a simple example of this thought process: “I want to increase my turnover by 25% this year.” WHY? “So I can make more money.” WHY? “So I can provide for my family.” WHY? “So we can take a holiday to Italy.” WHY? “We’ve always wanted to go to Italy.” WHY? “Because taking a holiday to Italy will allow us to connect as a family in a new way.” So you see, the WHY behind raising turnover by 25% is NOT to make more money. The WHY is to experience something new and bond as a family. Make sense? Try it for yourself!

2.) NOT S.M.A.R.T.

We’ve all heard about the importance of setting “SMART” goals in order to improve our chances of achieving them, right? (Lawlor & Hornyak, 2012). How many of us actually DO IT? Very few. The definition of “SMART” is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound. So, when setting your next goal, be sure to think through the SMART criteria. Is your goal specific enough? Can you measure it somehow and how often will you measure it your progress? Is it attainable yet challenging? Often we set goals for ourselves that are too easy. Setting a goal that will challenge us and get us to learn something different or form a new habit is the key, as we’ll then be getting out of our proverbial comfort zones. Is your goal realistic? CAN you achieve it? Is it within the realm of possibility? Finally, give yourself a deadline! Goals with no deadline tend to remain ‘works in progress’ far too long. Here is an example of a goal written without considering SMART principles: “I want to raise my sales.” Here is the same goal re-written in a SMART fashion: “I will increase my average monthly sales figures by 25% per month during the next 6 months.”


Studies have found that nominating an accountability partner can significantly increase your chances of achieving your goal. Identify someone you trust who will not only support you but hold you accountable for making progress and share your goal with them. Not only will you have made your goal public, which is powerful in and of itself, but you will have asked that person to be there for you along the way. Their role is to be your champion, your coach, your therapist and sometimes your drill sergeant! Choose carefully.


A major key to successfully achieving a goal is to identify not only the end-point (the finish line of the marathon) but to break that goal down into a series of smaller ‘sprints’ along the way that you can measure your progress against and reward yourself as you attain them! (Lawlor & Hornyak, 2012). I am reminded of driving to a specific destination using a Google Map – it tells me how many kilometres to drive before I need to make my next turn. Your ‘sprints’ help you identify where you are along the journey of reaching your goal.


People with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve them than people without written goals. Only 3% of the adult population has written goals. 14% have goals or a plan ‘in their head’, but not written down. Perhaps that means the remaining 83% don’t have goals (source: If you want to instantly increase your chances of success, WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN!


Sometimes, we’re not mentally ready to tackle a goal. The term “Mental preparation” originated in the field of sports psychology. It is generally accepted to be the key to preparing or “unlocking” the mind to achieve success. tells us to “prepare” means to “equip in advance”. Mental preparation therefore is training and equipping the mind for successful performance. Are YOU ready to achieve your goals or is there something holding you back? Perhaps you’re afraid of failing, so you never get started? Perhaps you’re afraid of SUCCESS because it means something will change in your life? Perhaps you hold some belief about yourself that is sabotaging you. In order to achieve your goals, identifying anything within your mindset or your environment that is not ready to support you as you move forward is critical. We at 100 Days have created a “Take Stock” matrix that has been designed to help you identify what resources exist around you (both supportive and not) to help you identify when you are ready to successfully tackle your goal.


In the section on setting SMART goals, we already alluded to the need for a deadline or time limit on achieving your goal. We all know that work expands to fit the time allowed, right? For instance, I know that Ican write a 2,000-word essay in 2 hours if I’m focused. What happens when I give myself all day to write it? It takes all day! Set timelines around achieving your goals. At 100 Days, we obviously favour the idea that a SMART goal can be successfully accomplished within 100 days with proper support. Give it a go!


A business consultant once shared with us the following formula:

D x A = R

WTF, you ask? It means simply this: a Decision multiplied by an Action will yield a result. Therefore, you cannot get a result without BOTH the decision to do SOMETHING AND TAKING SOME ACTION. WHEN SETTING YOUR GOAL, IDENTIFY WHAT YOUR FIRST STEP NEEDS to be! A blog article on the University of Kent’s website ( ) outlines the need for and positive effects of action planning with regard to goal achievement. A study of 50 start-up businesses found that those with a written action plan outperformed those without a plan EVEN WHEN the action plan was not followed. In the book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini, he shares with us that once we have taken action on achieving a goal, our brains will continually remind us that we need to keep moving forward. I’ll share a famous quote by Lao Tzu here: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

At JFDI, we are creating a groundbreaking model for helping YOU achieve your goals. We’re pulling together helpful resources, tools and REAL support so that you can accomplish those things you’ve never thought possible. Follow OUR journey at and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to go!


Cialdini, R. Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion (1993).

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self­determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11 (4), 227­268.

Gollwitzer, P. Goal Achievement: The role of intentions. Ch6.

Lawlor, K.B., & Hornyak, M.J. (2012). SMART Goals: How the application of SMART goals can contribute to the achievement of student learning outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation & Experiential Learning, v 39, 259-260.

Wigfield , A. , & Eccles , J. (1992). The development of achievement task values: A theoretical analysis. Developmental Review, 12 , 265 – 310

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