5 Questions to Answer When You Are Struggling to Reach Your Goals

Today is the first day of the second quarter of 2013. It is also the first day of a new month, and we are early in a new season. It’s a good time to take stock of your business, your goals, your progress towards your goals, and make some adjustments. In January, pretty much everyone is listing goals for everything from losing weight to getting organized to making more money. By the end of the first quarter, those lists are often lost in a file, or buried on a hard drive. But what good are goals that are never revisited?

Last week, my fantastic “writing buddy” asked if we should take a look at our goals and progress from the last quarter when we talk this week. I grumbled. I didn’t want to look, or to talk about it. Later,

Not much feels better than achieving a hard-earned goal.

Not much feels better than achieving a hard-earned goal.

I had a conversation with a couple of friends about tracking calories and how much I hate doing it and how it feels borderline obsessive. One of them gently suggested that perhaps some denial was at play – that I hate tracking calories because of what doing so reveals.

In both instances, my hesitance is directly related to my lack of progress in reaching stated goals. Sometimes, after you have broken your goals down in as many different ways as you can think of, and you still aren’t making progress, you just want to hide from them. Or maybe deny they ever existed.

As we all know, hiding won’t get you any closer to what you want. So, maybe it’s time for me (and maybe you, too) to analyze the goals themselves, and perhaps begin to think about them a little differently. Here are some questions I’m pondering this week:

1. Are my goals realistic? Are they things that it is actually reasonable to attempt? Pretty much everyone knows about SMART goals – the kind that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. While those requirements are usually part of professional goal-setting, they can be useful when it comes to personal goals, as well – especially if you are not seeing the kind of progress you would like.

2. Do I have all of the necessary tools to reach these goals? For example, if you want to build a deck, you are going to need some lumber, some nails, a hammer…along the same lines, if you want to complete a half marathon (a goal I recently achieved!) you are going to need a training plan and some good shoes.

3. What outside forces are going to impact my ability to reach this goal? Most of the time, there are going to be factors that you cannot control that slow your progress. Yes, personal responsibility is important, and yes, you have to be disciplined to reach most important goals, but you live in a world where things get in the way. Early in my half marathon training, I hurt my back. I had to take about a week and a half off. Even with plenty of stretching and strength training, I still had to deal with a minor injury. This is probably the part of working towards my goals I most often ignore. That may be true for you, too.

4. What part of the plan did I fail to execute? Oh, this one is so very hard to think about. Sometimes, I have no problem heaping blame on myself, and other times, some stubborn part of me refuses to acknowledge that I might be shirking my self-appointed “duties.” Of course I don’t want to track calories because I am sure that I’m eating healthfully. No need to track. None. I have no idea why I’m not getting more writing assignments from trade publications. I’m sending out tons of letters of introduction – no need to count them. I know I have been.

5. Are there factors I was not aware of when setting this goal? Sometimes when you start working on your plan, you find out about obstacles you never imagined getting in your way. Much like the outside forces that slow you down, these things are mostly unpredictable. You might even find that you need a whole new plan once you find out about them. One thing that I learned in my running program was that a trail run and a road run are quite different and make different demands on your body. That isn’t really written out plainly anywhere in Running World and the only way I learned it was by living it. (Hush! I don’t care how logical it seems. I didn’t know until I was gasping for air on the side of ridge!)

I would so much rather watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones than sit down and try to figure out why my first quarter numbers add up the way the do. I would one million times rather finish reading Season Three of  Yesterday’s Gone than add up how many calories I’ve consumed today. But neither escape would get me any closer to being the super-fit, financially comfortable person I aim to be.

Do you have any techniques that help you analyze where or how or why you are not reaching your goals? 

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