Top 3 Reasons Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals (With Solutions)

Goal setting is not a foreign concept to most people. And yet, many people do not set goals for themselves. According to one study by the Small Business Development Center Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, 80 percent of people do not set goals and of the 20 percent who do, only 30 percent achieve them.1 

If goal setting is a universally known concept, why do most people fail at the execution? 

Here are three of the most common reasons why people fail to achieve their goals. 

Reason #1: No planning

One of the main reasons why people fail at their goals is the lack of a plan. Most people are content with having something to aim for without a proper plan of action as to how they intend to reach them. 

Not knowing what to do next, most never get beyond merely having a dream. 


There is no simpler solution to this problem than sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down your goals — not just any goals. 

Goals should be, at the minimum, SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. But that does not mean they should be boring. Goals can be reasonable and still have the right amount of excitement. That said, goals should also be FAST — frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. 

Once you have determined the things you want to achieve, break each of them down into smaller actionable tasks. Tasks are short-term objectives, and each should be specific enough for you to act on them. 

Now, give each task an estimated start date, for a plan without a date is just wish. 

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Once you have identified a goal with all its tasks and identified when you wanted to do them, put them all in one place where you can easily track them. 

It also helps to have a mentor to help you through your goals. Being able to talk about your pursuits and receiving feedback on your progress is one of the most important aspects of achieving any goal.2  

Review your goals on a regular basis and make sure to track your progress. 

Having a plan, knowing how to do them and when to make them happen, and having somebody to share them with will altogether help you turn your ambitions into results. 

Reason #2: Self-doubt 

Another common reason people fail to hit their goals is self-doubt. Self-doubt stops people from taking risks that might be necessary for growth. It also limits their capacity to give a hundred percent of their effort towards their goals. 

When you know you have not really given your best to achieve something you truly want, your self-respect takes a blow, and you will feel less confident about yourself. This starts a downward cycle of disappointment and regrets that may cause anxiety, depression, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction with life. 


Set yourself up for success. You do not have to climb the peak of Mount Everest to feel good about yourself. In fact, the smallest victories are as effective in giving you a much-needed confidence boost when you feel intimidated and overwhelmed by a task or a goal. 

Break down a big goal into smaller component tasks and be specific about how you define success for each one of them. By doing so, you are making it easier for you to reach your goals by prioritizing progress instead of aiming for one-time, high-stakes results. 

Reason #3: Distractions

Distractions are the number one killers of productivity and since goal achievement is dependent on outcome, it is a very common reason why people fail to achieve goals.3 But it’s not just output that suffers; distraction causes a host of other problems — training your brain to be inattentive, decreasing your effectiveness, and prompting forgetfulness. 

When you are easily distracted, you rob yourself of the opportunity for deep work — a period of focused attention that allows you to push your cognitive capabilities to the limit. In that case, being easily distracted can thus compromise your competence at doing anything meaningful. 

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Unfortunately, stopping your mind from wandering by the sheer power of human will is not the most practical way to get rid of distractions. It’s more doable to manage them. 

So instead of trying very hard not to look at your phone or give in to the temptation of checking that new email, purposely give yourself time to be distracted. 

One way to do this is to use the technique called Time Blocking. It’s a method of time management that asks you to divide your time in blocks.  

Let’s say you choose to use 5-minute blocks. For five minutes, try to concentrate on finishing one task and once the 5 minutes is up, give yourself permission to check on your phone or read an article on the internet for the next 5 minutes.  

You don’t have to set an even amount of time for work and play. For example, you can choose to set 15 minutes to focus on work and 5 minutes for intentional distraction. 


Learning the root of the problem is the first step to finding a solution that works for you. Experiment with your own solutions but don't do it all at once or you will feel overwhelmed. Take it one day at a time and see the change happen.


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