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3 Reasons People Stop Pursuing Important Goals

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

We all have important goals in our lives that we work toward, but sometimes people stop pursuing the goals that matter most to them.

You would think that people would dedicate every ounce of time and energy to making their dreams come true. These are their dreams and hopes for the future, after all.

However, many people give up within just a short time. Just what causes us to give up on the goals that we say matter to us the most?

There are many reasons, such as various complications and distractions, that deter us from reaching the finish line. Daily life often gets in the way and can make an already difficult goal seem impossible to achieve. For example, someone might decide to go back to school, but the reality of balancing school, work, and a family is difficult.

Beyond the day-to-day challenges we face though, there are three other reasons people stop fighting to achieve the life they want to live. Fortunately, these three reasons can be overcome by reframing your thoughts and changing your mindset.

People stop pursuing important things because of fear

Fear can permeate through our desire to succeed at our goals in several ways. Some people fear the opinions and judgments of others. We often give friends, acquaintances, and loved ones much more power than we should.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea or creative solution to a problem you were facing? One where you just knew this was the answer you had been searching for? Then maybe you shared that thought with someone else, and they told you it was silly or wouldn’t work? Humans like to have other people validate our ideas, but what we are really doing is giving our power away.

Remember, someone has scoffed at every revolutionary idea that people have come up with. Walt Disney was once laughed at and told that no one would ever be interested in a talking mouse. The good news is that you can take your power back.

Only confide in a few trusted, similar-minded individuals, the other people in your life that often have whacky ideas that they make happen. Feedback from them will help you fine-tune your idea and bring it to life. You don’t actually have to concern yourself with anyone else’s opinion, no matter how close to you they might be.

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Other fears that often hold people back from living their dream life are the fear of failure and the fear of success. We often see one setback as a failure, and that failure leads people to think it is “time to wake up.”

That is how most people respond. In fact, according to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals won’t achieve them. Don’t be like most people! Instead, think like Thomas Edison, who said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Then there are those who are afraid that if they really succeed, their life will change significantly. They worry they won’t recognize themselves or will become someone else entirely. Embrace this thought. It is ok to grow and change into a better version of yourself.

The things they are fighting to achieve don’t actually inspire them

It is important that our goals are actually in alignment with what we want. It would surprise you how often we set goals because we think we should, and not because we actually want them.

For example, maybe you set a goal to receive a promotion at work. One that would mean more money, but less time with your family. If what you really want is to spend more time with your family, then your goal and your genuine desire are at odds.

My husband and I are within just a few thousand dollars of paying off our small house. We talked about possibly buying a bigger one, and renting this one. However, I realized I do not want a bigger house. Our oldest is about to go off to college, so we don’t need more space. What I really want is to have enough money to travel.

I could have set a goal to buy a nice big house, simply because part of me thought that is what we should want. However, that would not inspire me as much as having extra money to go on more vacations to the places I want to see.

We decided to just stay here, use our extra money to travel some, and maybe save some each month to buy a condo in Hawaii, eventually. That way, we could spend six months in the mountains and six months on the ocean.

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It will take a few years, but in the long run, it will be a much more satisfying life than having a nicer house to show off to people. If you are setting goals for the wrong reasons, then you won’t be motivated to put in the time and hard work it requires to achieve them.

Goals require hard work

Finally, the last reason we stop working for our goals is that they require work, sacrifice, and commitment. People are not lazy, but we like to see progress and results. Most of us like to see those results happen quickly.

Even when you let go of whatever fear is holding you back and set a goal that inspires you, there will still be work to put in. There are things you can do to make it seem easier to do the work, though.

Make sure your goals are specific and break them down into smaller goals. If your goal is to get a degree, focus on one class at a time and not the fact that it will take years until you have your diploma. Reward yourself as you go, and remind yourself that each minor victory is one step closer to the end result.

Try not to get distracted by things like cause you to procrastinate, like watching TV or the internet. For me, it is reading books on my phone! So, I set my phone away from me and work on getting some things done.

If I am writing an article, I set a small goal like finishing a section before I get to read the new chapter that just got posted. I take a quick break and then jump right back in. You could also try techniques like the Pomodoro method to help with time management.

Your dreams are important, so make sure your thoughts reflect that

Thoughts are just thoughts, and it is our actions that will get the job done. The thing about thoughts, though, is that your brain believes whatever you tell it. So, if you are thinking about the reasons you are afraid, then your brain will kick in and try to ease the fear.

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If you are focusing on your thoughts on what you would rather do, versus what you are actually doing, then your heart and mind are not working on the same page. This lack of alignment will cause you anxiety and stress and derail your goals.

Procrastination is another way that our thoughts distract us. However, we are in control of our own thoughts. They are just words we tell ourselves. You can change the narrative in your head. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistency and practice, you will notice the change in the way you respond.

Cognitive reframing has also been shown to reduce the effects of burnout. When you are balancing life and going after your goals, burnout is a real risk. This powerful tool has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD and improve functioning.

Here are some tips you can start with today to help reframe your thoughts:

  1. Increase the awareness of your thoughts
  2. Use Socratic Questioning (Here is a worksheet that can help)
  3. Use guided imagery
  4. Journaling your thoughts and keeping a detailed record
  5. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen and work through how that is either unrealistic or manageable

Make this the year you keep pursuing important goals

You can do this! Make this year the year that you set goals that truly matter to you. Get your thoughts working for you instead of against you. Recognize that important matters are not usually easy and will take work, but they are worth it.

You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” — James Allen

Where will you be next year? Remember that even you don’t accomplish the initial goal you set, that it doesn’t mean you have failed. I am positive you learned something along the way. You can use that to try again or set a different goal. Just don’t give up completely!

Let us know what goals you are working on right now, and why you think about quitting in the comment section below.

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