It’s that time of year again when we start to get hyper-focused on goal setting. Goal setting is a must-do practice for those journeying to financial freedom. But all too often, I see people feverishly setting goals on January 1st, only to become distracted and frustrated by February 1st (or January 2nd even…)  

So, let’s chat about 7 common reasons why we set goals and then come up short. I was inspired to write about this after I posted a poll in my IG stories and I asked people the question of whether or not they accomplish their financial goals for 2019. About 60 people responded and these are the results: Hopefully, by being aware of these common pitfalls, you’ll be more equipped for successful goal-setting in the coming year. Let’s dive into these seven reasons.

1. Goals lack specificity. 

The first reason why people are not successful with their goals is because their goals lack specificity. For example, you may say to yourself,  I want to save $5,000 in my emergency fund this coming year. That’s certainly a nice loosey-goosey goal, but it lacks specificity. The $5,000 goal could be totally arbitrary if you don’t have the budget and cash flow to support actually saving that money throughout the year. To make the goal more specific, and thus more achievable, flesh it out on paper, and create mini action steps throughout the year (see #6 below). 

2. Self-doubt. 

 Perhaps you go through the motions of setting lofty goals, but deep down you’re harboring a secret. You might even buy fancy planners and notebooks to get you in the right frame of mind to set those goals. But deep down you actually doubt your ability to get it done. Let me give you an example. You may want to start a business, but deep down, you feel like an imposter and fear that no one will actually spend their money on your product or service.  Or maybe you want to start a brand new side hustle where you’re required to interact with the public, talk to people, and mingle and network, but deep down inside, you wonder if you really have the required skill set to be successful. 

7 Reasons Why You Aren't Achieving

Self-doubt is a real thing and it can be a real dream crusher. To combat self-doubt one of the things that I recommend is to focus on positive affirmations. I know, I know… I was kind of skeptical at first too.  But I had to check myself, and realize that the words that we speak over ourselves really do have power. Though we’re not actually berating ourselves audibly,  we can surely tear ourselves down in our heads. And we say things about ourselves that we’d never dare utter about someone else. So turn those negative thoughts around by practicing positive affirmation to overcome self-doubt and lack of confidence.

3. Derailed by setbacks.

Setbacks are inevitable on any type of journey. Unexpected events will occur and emergencies will come up that will impact your finances. Yes, you could find yourself reaching for the credit cards again with no idea how you will pay them off. You might have to raid your emergency fund when your hot water heater gives out on you in the middle of winter. We can’t always predict or prevent these setbacks. But what we can control is how we choose to respond to them. 

It’s totally normal to be sad and frustrated if the emergency fund that took you a year to save, gets wiped out in a matter or minutes. But don’t throw your hands up in defeat and give up on the entire journey because of a bad financial day (or a bad month for that matter). Cry it out if you have to, eat a pint of ice cream if you need to, but mourn the setback (those emotions are real) and then get back up and start again. 

4. Life Overwhelm

It would be amazing if life always went according to plan. But of course, it doesn’t.  As we just discussed, setbacks are inevitable and unexpected things will happen. And, in the midst of all those setbacks, you’ll also be dealing with everyday life. Every morning you have to rush to get to work and get your kids to school on time. And in the evenings, you have to figure out what to cook for dinner and argue with your spouse about who’s turn it is to do the dishes. Then after the kids are in bed, you zone out in front of Netflix as a means of distraction (ok, maybe this is just MY life). Either way, we all face unique life challenges that can leave us low on time, energy, and patience. And somewhere along the way, we have to scrounge up a few moments of peace and quiet, oh yeah, and sleep too. You’re simply overwhelmed and exhausted. So, the optimistic goals set at the top of the year soon become a distant memory. 

I wish I had an easy prescriptive hack or solution for handling life overwhelm. I don’t.  But what I do know, is that prioritizing self-care has helped me manage life overwhelm and avoid burnout. I’m not talking about manis and pedis.  I’m not talking about going out to expensive spa days or shopping. What I’m talking about is getting enough sleep, making sure that I’m eating consistently, drinking lots of water, and dragging myself to the basement to get on that treadmill, even though I don’t feel like it. Indulging in these sacred, self-care practices helps me manage my stress better, improve my energy level, and motivation to keep fighting the good fight. Being in a perpetual state of overwhelm will leave you in survival mode, only doing what’s needed to get from one day to the next. The more you prioritize self-care, the less likely you are to be swallowed up by the overwhelm of everyday life.

5. Lack of focus. 

Part of the reason for the lack of focus around goals is because there may not be you don’t have a good understanding of the ‘why’ behind the goal. 

Recommended: What’s your financial ‘Why’? 

When you don’t have a compelling financial ‘why’ it’s easy to become sidetracked, especially when the road gets rocky. I highly recommend writing down your financial why and writing your goals in a journal or a planner. If pen and paper aren’t your thing you can type this out in the Notes app on your phone. After you jot it down, make a commitment to revisit it often. Especially in those moments when you feel your resolve weakening and you want to toss the budget. 

6. No plan of action.

The sixth reason why you might not be accomplishing your financial (or life) goals or your other life goals is because you don’t have a plan of action. Perhaps you’ve written down your goals but haven’t broken them down into bite-sized, actionable steps that are easier to achieve. Another benefit to breaking larger goals into smaller milestones is that you can also celebrate your progress along the way. 

7. Lack of a support system. 

The journey to financial freedom can be difficult enough but can become unbearable without a supportive community. Perhaps you’re talking to your friends and family members about budgeting and about getting out of debt, but all you get in return are blank stares. Sometimes folks just don’t get it. And that can be discouraging and demoralizing. It can be the reason why you give up and say, ‘Oh, well, I’m just going to do what everybody else is doing’.

To avoid throwing in the towel, be sure that you have a support system in place. If it’s not people in real life, then it’s mentors in your head, debt-free bloggers, people from books, people online via Instagram or Youtube. Establish your own success circle to remain inspired and motivated at each leg of the journey. Hopefully, those closest to you will eventually get on board as they see you living by example. They’ll want to know what you’re doing differently and why you’re so at ease with your finances.

Can you relate to any of this?

Have you had difficulty achieving the goals that you’ve set for your life and money? 
I hope that you avoid these pitfalls and are encouraged and motivated to succeed with your goals this year. And, I pray that there are great things on the horizon for you in the new year!