How many times have you set out to achieve something, with the best of intentions and a solid plan, only to see your deadline sailing past with your project still half-finished?
There are many things that stop us achieving our goals, and some of them are beyond our control. But here are a few obstacles that may be in your way that you can do something about.
1. A fixed mindset
According to Dr. Carol S. Dweck, author of the book Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, most people have one of two mindsets. Those with a fixed mindset believe that ability and intelligence are fixed. You either have them or you don't. Those with a growth mindset strongly believe you can improve your intelligence and ability in any area.
The main way this affects your success is when you hit an initial failure. Those with a fixed mindset will assume they don't have the ability to succeed. Those with a growth mindset will assume they haven't yet acquired the ability to succeed, and will set about improving, learning and preparing for their next attempt.
It's worth trying to train yourself out of a fixed mindset. While we may have some natural talent and ability, it's wrong to think we can't keep growing and learning.
Often we don't start a new task (or we don't finish it) because it seems too big and overwhelming. We get lost and confused, and the end of the project seems too far away.
This is because we try and take on too big a change. As Robert Maurer, PhD, points out in his book The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Small Step at a Time, most of us are programmed to resist radical change. We like to make improvements and take on challenges by making small, incremental changes.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by change, it's useful to break down whatever you're trying to achieve. Create short, achievable lists of all the small tasks that will lead you toward accomplishing your big goal.
3. You don't have a role model
It's hard to start a business if you come from a long line of paid employees. It's hard to have a successful marriage if your parents' relationship was dysfunctional. It's hard to be a great parent if you experienced lousy parenting.
If no one in your family or circle of acquaintance has done what you're trying to achieve, find a role model or mentor who has. Talking to someone who has done it before reassures you it can be done. Eric Hippeau, CEO of The Huffington Post, said "access to a mentor can make or break a small-business owner's chances of success."
If you're struggling to know where to go next because you're trying something new (whether in business or any other area of your life) finding a mentor, coach or role model can be invaluable.
4. You're planning too far ahead
Ever made seemingly realistic New Year resolutions, thinking you can't possibly fail because, after all, you have 12 whole months in front of you? Ever sat there in December wondering where that year went?
We often fail to achieve something because we think we have plenty of time to get to it, but suddenly we don't.
Brian P. Moran, author of The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months,suggests we should plan out our goals in quarterly increments. Instead of making a plan for the whole year, we should just make a plan for the next 12 weeks. You can still have long term goals, just pick a milestone that you need to hit by the end of the next 12 weeks and work relentlessly toward that, before worrying about the next milestone.
This approach gives us an ongoing sense of momentum and urgency. It helps avoid that all-too-familiar situation of the year (or quarter) ending and realizing we're not on track to achieve what we set out to do.
There are no guarantees when it comes to success, but there are certainly things that commonly trip us up. If we know what they are we can work harder to avoid them. Use these tips and guidelines to help you achieve your goals.