Updated: Nov 10, 2021
It’s hardly a secret that very few New Year’s goals are met. What is a secret is that there are 7 deadly sins of goal-setting that are at the root of the goal pandemic. Ultimately, we are what stands in our own way. However, if there was ever a year we need to change that scenario, it’s 2021!
Collectively, we have been trying to hack the New Year goal-setting success code for 4000 years, since the Babylonians began the tradition. If this New Year’s is like previous ones, 92% of us who set goals will give up in less than 30 days. Here are the 7 deadly sins to avoid, so you can turn your goals into pure gold.
Garbage Goal-Setting Do you pick your goals by assessing what you didn’t accomplish last year, or have been putting off doing? You are in good company. We say, “THIS year I will do it differently and FINALLY accomplish X!” That is like picking through our psychic trash and looking for something salvageable. Instead, try spending some time looking at what you did well last year, and see how you can create greater good in an area where you are passionate and motivated already. Use my 2021 Set Your Compass Exercise to do this.
Goal Obsession It might seem counter-intuitive, but focusing only on the goal is a recipe for disaster. When we focus primarily on an unrealized future goal, we see what we don’t have yet. By embracing our entire process of getting from where we are to where we want to be, we can cultivate a consciousness of personal growth. This will serve us on the journey to our current goal – and also to the next goal, and then the next one after that. After all, the purpose of each goal is to get us to the next one!
Over-reliance on Willpower Willpower is a short-term, surface solution that does not work over the long haul. Using willpower sets up an inner conflict within us that can create a vicious cycle of disappointment and self-abuse. The reason is we make ourselves into the enemy to be overcome, and are then a house divided against itself. Instead, when we leverage our whole being, with all our inner imperfections, and are willing to take two steps forward and one step back, without blaming or shaming ourselves, we become teachable – like the toddler who learns to walk, falling down, and getting back up again. In any setback, ask yourself: what have I learned here that I can change going forward?
Setting Goals Based on External Validation We crave belonging and approval from others. However, when we set goals that are centered around external validation and acclaim, we lose momentum quickly. This is true because it takes time to get that external reward, and occasionally it may never come, even if we attain our goal. In contrast, when our goal is about what lights us up from within, we can tap into that energy for a much longer period of time, if not indefinitely. The actual goal may be the same, but the focus is 180° different. For example, internal motivation for weight loss would be to feel more energetic and vibrant. External validation would be about the compliments and feeling irresistible to others.
Refusing to Let Go There is a spiritual law that states: In order to gain something greater, we must be willing to let go of something lesser. Unfortunately, too many of us set goals without considering how we will make space for new habits and behaviors. Instead we just pile on and try to do more, when we all know there isn’t more time and energy available. So, this year, ask yourself: what will you stop doing so you can start doing something new? What will you stop believing in order to believe in your success?
Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results It will often feel as though everything you did to achieve this level of success changes in order to reach the next level. That’s is the nature of personal growth. It is the nature of our own evolution. If we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone, we will cultivate our own stagnation and ultimately, depression. When we shrug at the idea of setting goals and resolutions, because “they just don’t work” what isn’t working is actually us. Birth is not an easy or comfortable process, but it is necessary for life. Goals are no less necessary. That’s not a rosy, overly optimistic statement. It is the unadulterated truth.
Self-betrayal Every time we make a resolution or set a goal, and then don’t fulfill it, we chip away at our ability to trust ourselves. We perceive ourselves as flawed, weak and unreliable. Many of us blame the whole idea of goal-setting or resolutions as ridiculous as a way to let ourselves off the hook. That is a poor solution, since it keeps us stuck.
The best approach is recognizing any goal is best accomplished one micro-movement – one step – one manageable bite at a time. Each micro-movement you accomplish deserves to be celebrated. When you do, you begin rebuilding the trust in yourself as you go. This builds your esteem, your motivation and your commitment to moving forward, which only needs to get you to the next win. Then you can repeat the process again.