The #1 Reason We Don’t Achieve Our Goals

Several weeks ago, we started talking about focusing on one thing we’d like to change in our lives this next year (instead of multiple resolutions).  I asked, “Are you in?”  Based on comments and emails, many of you said “yes.”

Arrows missing target

On New Year’s Day, we focused more precisely on that question: “What one thing could I do this year – that I’m not doing now – that would make the biggest difference in my life?”

Whenever I read those types of posts, I get motivated – and excited – and I think, “That’s great.  Exactly what I need.  Let’s do it!”

And I don’t do it.

I’m realizing that motivational quotes, Facebook posts and slogans give me a quick “hit” of energy, but it’s not enough to overcome the gravitational pull of life.  Then I feel worse, because I didn’t do anything about it.

It’s like, “I really want to move ahead in my life, but I just don’t have enough time.  My plate is so full, and the demands on my time are relentless.  It takes all my energy just to keep my head above water.”

Last week, one of my favorite thinking partners, Dr. Derek Atchley (who I happen to be related to) posted the following on his Facebook page:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time.  You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

That’s 100% true.

But I’m no Einstein,” we say.

No, we’re not.  But we have the potential to have the same impact that Einstein had.

What’s the difference?

Distraction iconsEinstein didn’t have email.

He didn’t have a cell phone, Facebook or Angry Birds.  He didn’t have 300 channels or texting or instant messaging.

He didn’t have as many distractions.

Instead of approaching our goals like a marksman focused on a bulls-eye, we find ourselves flinging gravel at dozens of different priorities that we want to achieve.

We don’t reach our goals because we have too many targets.

We’re distracted.

That’s the main reason we don’t reach our goals; we have too many good things in our lives that distract us, diluting our efforts to achieve what really matters most.  Because they’re good things, we feel like they’re essential.

But maybe we need to evaluate how those good things are keeping us from the great things.

We need to be undistracted.

I love the old Chinese proverb: “Man who chases two rabbits will catch neither.”

Let’s talk more about this in the next couple of weeks.  We don’t want to just have quick hit of motivation; we need to keep revisiting this until we have a blueprint for success.


What’s distracting you?  Comment below:



Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • Derek

    Important and powerful message in this one. Here is my struggle, in trying to be connected in today’s world we have done two things. 1) often we have disconnected from our lives and who we are trying to be 2) the tax of all the different social medias and information we try to deal with daily is zapping our life away.

    We really are trying to be focused and committed to the goal but I know often at the end of the day I feel disappointed in my real effort and not just my busy effort. Darrin Hardy said this once in regards to building a real estate business , he took a stop watch and any time he did something that actually was revenue generating he hit the timer. Things that were important but really just the busy work of doing what he needed to do did not count. At the end of the first day I think he only logged about 30 minutes. I think if we were all to take a stop watch to our lives we would be shocked how little time we are doing something that really moves up closer to our goal.

    That is I think one of the biggest hurdles in achieving our goals is that we get so off track doing what we think is relevant that by the time we look up and realize how far away we still are it crushes us.

    Try this 1) define success in life and what success would be in your goal. pick 3-6 things that you need to do to achieve that and plug away. 2) Pick 3 things and only 3 things to devote your attention to for the next 90, 120, 365 days or whatever it might be for you. If something comes along ask yourself does this fit into one of those 3 things? If it doesn’t no matter how attractive and one of a kind opportunity it is, DO NOT sway from your 3.

    Great post, thank you for sharing.

    • Derek – Sorry for the delay – I’m running a little behind on computer stuff!

      Really interesting insights, my friend. I agree with both of your initial points, and really like the perspective of being “taxed” by social media. The mail used to come once a day, and we looked forward to it. Now, it comes once every few seconds, and we feel like we have to process everything. Some things are important, because they tie into our roles and goals (your #1 point). Others are urgent, but not so important. They’re just dressed up in important clothes, but shouldn’t be allowed into the party.

      I like Darren Hardy’s idea of keeping track of things that are goal-related. I think it’s applicable to every area of life – family, health, pondering – besides just our goals. Maybe we should figure out what our balanced lives should look like, then keep track of anything that moves us in those directions (which will reveal how much time we waste in things that take us away from balance).

      I like your process in your final paragraph. I’d like to take your first phrase, “define success in life,” and unpack that carefully and precisely (see balance comments above) – then apply the rest of the process.

      Great thoughts – Thanks!

      (I’ll send you my thoughts on your last email as soon as I catch up on blog comments!)

  • Marc Johnson

    I’ve found that if I’m going to set goals one of the primary goals must be to “READ GOALS 3X/WEEK!”

    • Good insight, Marc. I had someone tell me recently that they posted their goals by their door so they would see them each day, but after a while they got used to it and it blended into the decor. So every Sunday, they moved the list somewhere else so it would be fresh – one week the bathroom mirror, the next week the car dashboard, etc. Maybe you could just have your wife remind you of them every day . . .