When Goals Stop Working

Down sign
Most goals usually set off on a high note.  At the beginning, you are self-driven and motivated to achieve them. You diligently adhere to your plan. When you do, you feel terrific. You are on an upward momentum and the possibilities of what’s next excites you. For a while, you look forward to what’s next.

But then after a period of time, the momentum wanes. You think about the goal, but you don’t feel like working on it. You become rooted by inertia and you start to procrastinate. Frustrated by the lack of results, you begin to resist your goals. You subconsciously turn to other activities as avoidance.

When Goals Stop Working

I’m an advocate of goal setting because it works. Goals are important and they serve their place. If you don’t already set goals on regular basis, here are 6 important reasons why you should do so.

But there are times when goals don’t work. Such as:

  1. When you no longer feel motivated by the goals.
  2. When you dread/avoid working on the goals. You see them as a chore, another “task” to be completed. You have to literally force yourself just to do them.
  3. When your goals make you feel lousy about yourself (more than they inspire you).
  4. When you feel your goals are like a burden.
  5. When you don’t even remember why you want those goals in the first place.

There are times when I feel burdened by my goals. For example, I set targets to write a certain number of articles and guest posts every month. If I don’t achieve them after the goal date, I would feel lousy. Then for a period of time, I would be dancing the tango between trying to accomplish the goal ASAP and getting nowhere in it.

I have learned from experience that forcing myself to write is the last thing to do when I feel uninspired. Doing so brings me nowhere. Not only do I spend a copious amount of time and effort just to get the words out, the end result is unreadable. The writing is convoluted, the words are empty, nothing connects in the writing with the reader – you can easily tell it’s written in an uninspired state. Articles I write when I’m uninspired never get to see the light of the day. Whatever writing I manage to churn out gets deleted/trashed, and in the end I’m back to the drawing board (or in this case, the WordPress editor). Now that’s a whole load of time and effort wasted and I feel even worse off because all my effort went down to the drain.

Likewise for some of my clients, there are times when they have goals which they are no longer inspired by. Initially they would be enthusiastic about their goals, sticking to the plans they created and making good headway. But after a while, they begin to slip. They feel bad about it and try to pick up the pieces with limited success, making them feel even worse. They become weighed down by their goals, as if they are a ton of bricks.

If you find this happening to you, that’s means your goals no longer inspire you. That means it’s time to relook into your goals list.

Relooking Into Your Goals List

The very reason why you set goals is so you can achieve more than you would without goals. Yet, if your very goals are putting you off, making you feel crappy and causing a misalignment inside you, then your goals aren’t exactly helping you to achieve more. In fact, they are probably making you achieve lesser than normal since it’s stirring up all these negativity in you. You are too busy resisting and battling these stray thoughts that you are too tired to do anything else. That’s red alert that something is wrong.

There are various reasons why you may be uninspired by your goals now:

  1. You became attached to your performance of those goals. When you didn’t achieve your earlier milestones, you became weighed down. This snowballs into a bigger burden over time and repeat encounters.
  2. Your goal was just a way to achieve your desired outcome, which should be your real goal to begin with.  (Read Principle #4 on Objective vs. Activity Goals.) It has since become irrelevant as you know of other, better ways to achieve your envisioned outcome.
  3. You lost touch with why you wanted these goals or there is no longer a reason to achieve these goals
  4. Your priorities/interests have changed and you are no longer interested in achieving these goals

Your Goals Have To Inspire You First

The prerequisite of every successful goal is you must feel inspired by it. If you don’t feel inspired at all, you are no different from a withering corpse. No point beating yourself to do things that don’t make you feel energized. Many have the misconception that life is all about toiling through misery and suffering to achieve results which will then make you happy. That can’t be further from the truth. It’s about feeling happy throughout the whole process, which will then bring you the results you seek.

In a situation where your goals no longer inspire, the fastest way to kickstart everything is to clear out all your past goals and set new ones. That means time for a goal renewal session. Forget about whatever you have on your to-do list and your hang-up on clearing it. Chuck your past goals all out of your window. (Of course, this only applies to your personal goals. It goes without saying that it doesn’t apply to the things that (negatively) impact others if you don’t do them or the things goals you have already committed to others that you will do.)

Some would recommend recalling why you set your original goals to reconnect with them. This works too. Clearing out your past goals list and setting new ones is the most effective if your original goals list was set a long while back. If the original goals you set are really what you want, then they will re-emerge in your new goals list. It’s good because it signals a convergence of your desires.

Rediscover Your Goals

With a clean piece of paper / document, ask yourself – “What are the goals I want to set for myself?” Write them down on the paper.

Think about the different areas of your life as you set your goals. Your health, fitness, relationships, family, friends, romance, career, work, business, finance, material wealth, habits, mindsets, achievements, spirituality, recreation, passion, studies, growth, sleeping/waking time, diets, etc are some areas to start off with.

Take as long as you need to write them. It’s possible that you get on a roll from writing this that you just keep writing on and on. :D I know whenever I do goal setting, it doesn’t end within that sitting. New goals and ideas continue to hit me after that. Same for my clients too – Some of them continue to have new goals after writing their initial set of goals during our sessions.

The key is to make sure these goals inspire you. If you feel turned off or weighed down by a goal more than you feel inspired, that means that goal ain’t gona work. Your overall sentiments about your goal at the moment you set it gives you a strong indication of how it will pan out. If you already feel pressured negatively, chances are you will avoid the goal after a short period of time. However, if you are very inspired by the goal AND you are positively pressured to take action, that’s when we have a winner. :D

As you set your goals, refine them with the 10 principles of goal setting. In particular, make sure your goals are challenging (and inspiring of course), specific and measurable (i.e. Principles #5, #6, #7)

Get Started With Your Goals

Now you have set your goals, it’s time to bring them to life. The difference is now you are driven by true inspiration, and not obligation. :)

The Goals & Dreams category is chock full of articles on successful goal achievement. (35 articles as I’m writing this) Here are some will get you started immediately:

At any time when you feel uninspired by your goals, remember successful goal achievement comes from first and foremost working on goals you believe in. Reconnect with your inspirational source. Regular goal reviews is vital for that reason. I do a weekly goal review (every Friday morning, to be precise) and monthly goal review (last Friday of every month) where I review my goals and ensure I’m moving in the right direction.

Image: Stop sign

  • http://www.langenecker.com DieterL

    Most people start with (material) goals, believing that achieving them will make them happy. But if the goals are not aligned with their deeper meaning, the motivation will fade. Goals are not the starting point, but only the second step after becoming clear on your own purpose. And then it is not (outer) motivation anymore, but rather (inner) inspiration. “For who knows the why no how is too difficult”.

  • http://frombottomup.com/ Hulbert Lee

    Hey Celestine, your goal renewal session strategy is a great way to feel inspired to do our goals again. There are days where I don’t feel motivated, and when I’m writing, well let’s just say nothing really connects anywmore. Sometimes I have to get a clean piece of paper and find the meaning behind the goals that I had in the first place in order to feel inspired again. We don’t want to be driven by obligation like you say; we want to feel inspired to do what we do and I really liked how you outlined this for us. Thanks. :)

  • http://livingabalancedlife.wordpress.com Clearly Composed

    I agree that if purpose comes first, the goal process is much easier and going past the goal making to developing the plan to reach it is where the magic starts to happen. Good info here and good luck with the book! :)

  • http://www.joshuanoerr.com Joshua Noerr

    Really good post Celes. I am a huge proponant of writing goals down. I encourage my readers to write them down twice per day, in a very specific format (ie the present, personal, positive tense), first things upon waking up, and right before you go to bed. It just allows your subconscious to work on them, and keeps you focused on them all day.

    I also think it’s important to do just something small every day to move toward the goal. I think too many people want to accomplish everything all in one day, and then get discouraged. Goal setting and accomplishment is a marathon, not a sprint!

  • http://www.cultivatingheroes.com Jarrod – Cultivating Heroes

    There is nothing quite as soul sucking then when your personal standards set to meet your goals start taking you along a path you no longer want to walk.

    This is why I have constant review cycles (monthly at the moment) to review those big 1-5year goals I have setup. If it’s no longer what I really want then it is time to throw it out.

    I particularly like your idea of throwing the goals out and starting with a fresh list. If it is dead then let it be, if it is something that you feel you want it will come back to life through its own course in your life.

  • http://www.imjustsharing.com Mitch

    I’m at that point where I need to readdress my goals because I’m just not feeling them anymore. Truthfully, I don’t think my goals are geared toward a proper outcome, as I only have one long term dream, and it’s really not enough yet to compel me to greater heights.

    I like this post; thanks, as it’s got me thinking again.

  • Mike Wille

    Great Post Celes. I think that it is great to set goals but they have to be as organic as we are. Just as we grow and develop and change so should our goals. If we keep doing the same thing that isn’t working over and over we will eventually give up. Since we will rarely accomplish something worthwhile our first time, the key is to keep readjusting, tuning and trying again and again until we finally find the right strategy to accomplish what we want.

  • http://www.pauldyer.com Dr Paul Dyer

    IMHO, goals that keep us motivated, are goals that align with our life’s true purpose. The goals that move us toward becoming the person we want to be and that correspond to our Calling, will remain motivating and exciting for long periods of time. On the other hand, goals that are disconnected from our life’s purpose, or are arbitrary, or were chosen just because they “seem like the right thing to do”, or were selected because someone else thinks that they should matter, will soon become burdensome and lead to feelings of self-defeat and goal-resignation.