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91% Fail at Goals? Here’s Why (and How to Be the 9%)

91% Fail at Goals

Have you ever set a goal and then watched it fade away? Let me tell you, you’re not alone. For example, a whopping 91% of people who decide to make New Year’s resolutions do not achieve them. That’s quite a dismal success rate. We are halfway through the new year now. How are you doing with your goals?

Here’s the thing, though: I used to be one of those 91%. With some valuable lessons learned over the years, I’m here to help you figure out what went wrong and what you can do to fix it.

Why Do Goals Fail?

Why New Year's Resolutions Fail
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

It is not uncommon for us to encounter roadblocks to achieve our goals. Common culprits include:

  • Unclear goals. Imagine navigating a maze blindfolded. When you try to achieve an ambiguous goal, that’s what it feels like. As such, goals must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. Rather than “get healthy,” aim for “walk 30 minutes, 3 times a week.”
  • Lack of planning. Even the most determined traveler can become lost without a roadmap. When creating a plan, your goals should be broken down into smaller, manageable steps. As a result, progress feels achievable, and you remain motivated to achieve it.
  • The allure of perfectionism. The pursuit of perfection might seem noble, but it destroys goals. When we fear making mistakes or not being good enough, we procrastinate and eventually abandon our goals. It’s progress, not perfection, that counts. Take advantage of small victories and learn from setbacks.
  • Motivation meltdown. Motivation can be a fickle friend. Initially, it soars, but it can dwindle over time. You, however, reignite your motivation by developing strategies. Additionally, you should visualize success, reward yourself for milestones, and surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Unforeseen obstacles. Even the best-laid plans can be derailed by unexpected events. So, building flexibility and having contingency plans will help you remain on track and adapt as necessary.
  • Lack of accountability. When we know someone is watching, we’re likelier to stick to our commitment. Consider finding an accountability partner or joining a goal-oriented group. When you share your goals with someone, you are more likely to stick to them.
  • Wrong goals, right reasons. Are you chasing your dreams or chasing someone else’s? Focus on goals aligned with your values and passions. In contrast to external pressures, intrinsic motivation provides a more sustainable drive.

Don’t Set It and Forget It: The Power of the 90-Day Review

Review Every 90 Days
Review Every 90 Days

What’s the biggest mistake I see people make when it comes to goals like New Year’s resolutions? With time, we lose sight of the goals we set for ourselves.

Let me explain.

Setting goals is an awesome idea. It shows that you want to improve and challenge yourself. Perhaps you’d like to get in shape, increase your income, or advance your career—all of those goals are fantastic!

By February, we often forget about them after we write them down — and now it’s mid-June, where are you with your goal? As reported in the U.S. News and World Report, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February as most people lose their motivation and resolve.

It took me joining coaching programs to figure this out (and let me tell you, it took me a lot of time and effort! ), but here’s what I learned:

You can’t just write down your goals if you want to reach them.

If your goals are important to you — and you know they are — you must constantly be reminded of them. And it is important to review them regularly. That’s where I learned the power of 90-day reviews.

Here’s how it works:

  • Identify your one-year, three-year, and lifetime goals.
  • Set 90-day goals each quarter that will help you achieve your bigger goals.
  • You should review all your goals every 90 days – quarterly, yearly, and lifetime.

Why does this work? You’re reminded of what you’re working on by constantly reviewing your goals.

When I started doing this, guess what happened? After a while, I could accomplish those big goals I once thought were impossible. And not only in one year but in just a few months!

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, using was a game-changer. Until this day, I still use it, and I teach my kids about it.

Additional Strategies for Goal Success

Obviously, there are other effective ways to accomplish your goals. To be a member of the goal-achieving elite, follow these tips:

  • Start Small, dream big. Don’t try to revamp your life overnight. Start with smaller, attainable goals that help you gain momentum and confidence. The more you accomplish these mini-victories, the more you’ll be empowered to face more significant challenges in the future.
  • Embrace the power of “Why.” Don’t just set goals; connect them to something bigger. Why do you want to accomplish this? In tough times, a strong “why” keeps you motivated.
  • Schedule it in. Goals should be treated as essential appointments. Schedule time in your calendar to work on them. This will prevent the daily grind from squeezing them out.
  • Track your progress. It is important to monitor your progress to receive valuable feedback. Identify areas of improvement, celebrate milestones, and adjust your plan accordingly. Staying on top of your goals is easy with goal-tracking apps and journals.
  • Develop a growth mindset. Take advantage of challenges as a learning opportunity. Setbacks can teach you valuable lessons that can propel you forward.
  • Find your support system. Identify positive, goal-oriented individuals to surround yourself with. Share your goals, encourage each other, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Supportive networks can make all the difference.
  • Learn to love the journey. Don’t just focus on the end goal, but also on the journey. Embrace the growth mindset, celebrate the small wins, and enjoy the challenges.

It’s important to remember that there are different ways to accomplish things. As such, don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone and try something new. The results might surprise you.

Conclusion: You Have the Power to Achieve Your Goals

Ultimately, you are in control of your success. With the right strategies and knowledge, you can overcome challenges, stay motivated, and achieve your goals.


I missed my goal! Is this a total failure?

This is not necessarily true.

It is common for people to experience setbacks on their journey to achieving their goals. To succeed, though, you must learn from what happened and adapt your approach accordingly.

Why do goals fail?

Goals fail for many reasons, but the following are some of the most common:

  • Unrealistic goals. It is difficult to accomplish goals that are too big, too vague, or that do not have a set timeline.
  • Lack of planning. You may feel overwhelmed and give up if you don’t have a clear roadmap to reach your goal.
  • Procrastination. Even the most well-laid plans can go awry if put off until later.
  • Loss of Motivation. Sometimes, staying motivated over the long haul is hard when life throws curveballs at you.

What should I do if I fail to reach a goal?

  • Don’t beat yourself up. We all fail sometimes. It’s important to learn from it and try again.
  • Reflect on what went wrong. Identify the reasons why you were unable to achieve your goal.
  • Reassess your goal. Are your values and desires still aligned with the goal? Are there any adjustments that need to be made to make it more achievable?
  • Develop a plan. Break your goal into smaller, more manageable steps to reach it.

How can I avoid failing my goals in the future?

  • Set SMART goals. You are more likely to achieve specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
  • Break down big goals into smaller steps. This will help you feel less overwhelmed and keep track of your progress.
  • Find an accountability partner. It can be helpful to have someone check in with you regularly.
  • Celebrate your successes. No matter how small your progress is, acknowledge it.

Is it okay to give up on a goal?

It is okay to reevaluate your goals and make adjustments as needed. Occasionally, circumstances change, and once important goals become irrelevant.

Ultimately, it is up to you to be honest with yourself and focus on what is most important to you.

Image Credit: DS stories; Pexels

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We uphold a strict editorial policy that focuses on factual accuracy, relevance, and impartiality. Our content, created by leading finance and industry experts, is reviewed by a team of seasoned editors to ensure compliance with the highest standards in reporting and publishing.

Investments Author
Taylor Sohns is the Co-Founder at LifeGoal Wealth Advisors. He received his MBA in Finance. He currently has his Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Taylor has spent decades on Wall Street helping create wealth.

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