Six Common Reasons People Give-up on their Goals (Plus What to do About it)

“If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.” – Les Brown 

Why do people give up on goals? Why have you given up on goals? It certainly isn’t rocket science. People usually give-up when it gets too hard or take too long. We fail a few too many times and respond by giving-up. Unfortunately, if this is our response we are ensured defeat, because failure is going to happen. We are going to encounter obstacles and frankly we might be completely clueless about what we’re doing. At least in the beginning. As we progress we will learn, practice, and build commitment to our dreams. Obstacles won’t disappear, but you can prepare for them. You can prepare to surmount your obstacles. So, to help you prepare for barriers and blockages, here are six of the most important reasons people give up on goals… and what to do about them.

1. Lack of Ownership

Ever had goals you simply didn’t care about? They were far and distant goals. Goals someone else placed in your control, but they weren’t your goals. Not if you had a choice at least. Think about it, how many of your goals feel more like obligations? These goals lack ownership and it is really difficult to stay motivated without a sense of purpose and meaning for what we’re doing. What to do about it: You must “buy in” to you goals and take ownership. This shifts the ownership and initiative to an internal point of reference. Then, effectiveness and mastery can come about.

“I’ve worked too hard and too long to let anything stand in the way of my goals. I will not let my teammates down and I will not let myself down.” – Mia Hamm 

2. Not willing to put in the time

If you’re like me, you tend you think you can take on more than you have time for. It’s easy to underestimate the time it will take to complete certain tasks. This “optimism bias” is a habit that leads to giving-up. We end up getting overwhelmed and can’t dedicate the necessary time. What to do about it: It’s not that we need more time, but we need to use our time more effectively. Focus on the most important things first. Spend time on what will get you the most results. Drop the busy work. Keep focused on getting results instead of just completing tasks.

3. Not willing to do the hard work

The path to our potential is never an easy one. The goals I am most proud of were the most challenging and arduous. Along with the factor of time, the optimism bias applies equally to difficulty. When something is more difficult than we expected it can be demotivating, but as the saying goes, “anything worth doing takes hard work.” What to do about it: Recognize that what we don’t already excel in will require hard work and practice. So, if something is harder than you expected, it is time to practice more than you expected. As you learn what you need to learn and develop the skills you need to develop, things will become easier.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

4. ADHD (Just kidding, I mean Distractions)

It seems like everyone has attention deficits these days. Think of all the content competing for our attention on a daily basis. We might be distracted by other people, television, the computer, or our phone. Not only are these external distractions an issue, but many people have numerous goals at a time competing for their time and energy. We can jump from one goal to another, never finding firm footing to move forward. What to do about it: For the most part we can avoid some distractions by unplugging and turning off the electronics. We can also make sure to find a place where you will be undisturbed. In general, stop multitasking, and only work on one thing at a time. You will end up being more efficient and effective because of this.

5. Insufficient reward

Hey, where’s the big payoff? I thought that if I worked this hard and put in all this time that I would have more results! Disappointment sets in when achievement of a goal doesn’t translate into other goals or to the desired happiness. When we feel like we’re working hard for nothing it is easy to want to give-up. What to do about it: This is why setting small milestones along the way is so important. You won’t transform your life overnight. It is the same as weight lifting or exercising. We can’t expect to bench press 300 lbs without training. We have to set milestones along the way, and little by little we will see the rewards. What small progress can you reward yourself for?

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.” ― Henry David Thoreau

6. Old habits die hard

Sometimes getting started isn’t the hard part. The hard part is sticking with our new habit or lifestyle. Maintaining changed behavior is difficult, and there is always the pull of the old and the fear of the new. Old habits die hard if we aren’t prepared to keep up the changes. What to do about it: Focus on progress, not perfection. Give yourself a break and realize that you might fall back into old patterns. Personal change is a back and forth swing. We take two steps forward and one step back. The key is to keep the momentum in the forward direction. Next time you feel like giving up, consider these different ideas before you decide to surrender. Just like anything in life, if we want it bad enough we will put in the work, and practice, practice, practice. Success might be just around the corner, and all you need is just a little more motivation, practice, and persistence.