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Why Personal Goal-Setting Fails?

Updated on May 22, 2013

88% of all those who set new year resolutions from half of America fail, according to researcher Richard Wiseman, and this figure most probably applies to the rest of the world as well.

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I bet you have set goals in your life AND for your life many times, perhaps even religiously makiing new year resolutions each year... but you fail miserably to follow through. If so, you are not alone.

Why do people fail to achieve the goals that they have themselves set? Rather than beating about the bush, let me get straight to the answer:

The reason why people fail to achieve their goals is because they set for themselves goals that they OUGHT to achieve, rather than goals that they are PASSIONATE about.

Is that any surprise to you? Truth is that most of us do not know that life is about living our passions. Life is not about living what our parents, our teachers, or our friends say we should, or even what society says we should. Truth is also that most of us do not know what our true passions are, and so we let others decide for us. Fortunate are those who know their true passions early in life.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart realized his true calling early in life and performed his musical talent before European royalty from the age of 5. By the age of 12, Albert Einstein wanted to devote his life studying nothing less than the behavior of the universe. But for most of us, we live our life like pieces of wood floating aimlessly in the ocean. We landed on our first job by accident, when the position fell vacant, and we literally have to drag ourselves to work each day.

If your ladder to success is leaning against the wrong wall, it doesn't matter how hard you work, or what goals you set. It is doomed to failure, even before you lift a finger. Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

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The Older-Generation Personal Development Gurus Had It All Wrong

Beginning in the late 1970s, I attended a lot of personal development courses. Looking now at where my gurus are, I must regret to say that all of them did not do exceptionally well in life themselves. Why? Because they merely taught what their gurus taught them, and they never even bothered to find out whether their techniques work. Obviously, their techniques are not working! And when participants approached them with their failures, they hastily pushed them away by saying, "You know why? Because you are very negative!"

Imagine how all of these personal development gurus taught goal-setting? "Take out a piece of paper. You've 15 minutes. Write down your 3 main goals"!!! Is that how you teach goal-setting? Not by a long shot! But that was what every personal development guru was teaching then... a case of the blind leading the blind.

I have been pondering over this question of goal-setting for a long time until I read "Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life: Getting to the Heart of Your Life's Mission", by Carole Adrienne. In the below video, Robert Scheinfeld, one of the new-generation self-help gurus, puts it squarely (paraphrased, non-verbatim):

"... we all come to this world with a specific mission or purpose. There's something specific that everyone comes to this world to do and experience. And even though there's an infinite number of things we could do in our lifetime, we had made choices before we come into this world that narrow the field of what's possible for us. It's kinda like if you go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. There's 20 zillion rides and attractions that you could go for, far more than you could handle on an average visit. But you choose to go on this one, this one, and this one. In other words, you limit the possibilities from the infinite number that's available to you. And it's the same thing in our lives.

The interesting thing is even though there's so many options, the average person is clueless about what their mission and purpose really is. And if your mission and purpose is in this box and you set a goal that's outside the box, you won't succeed.

There is a consciousness of your being from behind the scenes that is determining what happens to you in your life and sees to it that you fulfill your life purpose that's in the box. And it is this creative process in your consciousness that is creating things from behind the scenes that determines what happens and what doesn't happen. It isn't your thoughts. It isn't the goals that you set. It isn't your strategies either. It's your mission and purpose, and the true creative process that's behind the scenes... not what you are perceiving that is really driving the bus. And it is for this reason why goal-setting should have been very effective, but it isn't.

If you really want to transform the quality of your life, if you really want to change and improve what's going on in every aspect of your life, you need to understand and acknowledge the truth of this: Align your goals with your mission and purpose and when all of these are aligned, all of a sudden, everything starts transforming in radical ways."

How do you determine your life mission and purpose? You MUST start with your passion because that's your calling in life. But what if you don't know where your true passion really lies?

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How to Determine What Your True Passions Are

If you do not know what your true passions are, begin by making a scrapbook. Choose a daily newspaper that has a wide selection of news items. Cut out all news items that interest you and paste them into your scrapbook. When you have about 100 cuttings, do an analysis to find out which category of news items interest you most. The analysis will tell you where your passion lies. But be careful.

If you have a "biased sample" to start with, e.g. the newspapers don't cover much on health issues, say, you may end up with the wrong conclusion. So when you get the result of the analysis, reflect upon it and ask, "Does the results truly reflect my passions, or is merely because the newspapers have more items on this category?"

To double-check, you can ask your friends and relatives, whether be they close or otherwise. Tell them honestly that you are trying to pinpoint where your true passions lie. Listen to what they have to say, giving allowance to how much they actually know you. By the end of this exercise, you should have a pretty good idea of what your true passions are.

It is only when you know where your true passions are, that you can really begin to start setting goals.

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Goal-setting flows from your life mission and purpose, and is hierarchical.
Goal-setting flows from your life mission and purpose, and is hierarchical.

How Do You Set Goals?

Having determined what your true calling in life is, write down your life mission. The life mission is a broad statement of where you want your life to head. Don't know how to write a mission statement? Inspired-personal-development.com offers a 4-step process to guide you in identifying and clarifying your most driving ambitions in life.

Once you have put your mission statement in writing, you can then go into greater and greater detail by setting goals and objectives. Goals are nothing more than longer-term objectives (say, 5 years or 10 years, depending on what your goals are), while objectives are what you can monitor in the shorter term, e.g. every month, so that you know that you are on track to achieving them. The S-M-A-R-T guidelines for setting goals and objectives are:

  • Specific: Goals such as "I want to be rich" or "I want to be happy" are practically useless. They must state what is to be done, e.g. "I want to earn $8,000 a month".
  • Measurable: Supposing you set a goal to be achieved within 5 years, but the goal is not measurable (e.g. I want to be rich), how would you know you are on track?
  • Achievable: It is no point setting a goal that is so high that you yourself do not believe that you can achieve it.
  • Realistic: If you are earning $3,000 a month and your goal is to take over the company that you are working for, which is worth $3 billion, then you ought to see a shrink, if your father is not a millionaire.
  • Timely: You must set a reasonable time-limit to achieve your goal.

Goals must be written down, so that you do not lose focus. If they exist only in your head, they are just wishful thinking.

Why Goal Setting Fails So Much As A Personal Growth, Self Help, Self Improvement, Success Technique

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    • wowtgp profile image

      Rahul Parashar 4 years ago from Delhi, India

      What a thoughtful hub this is!

      I agree with you. Setting useless and unattainable goal is pretty much a time waste. I vowed to publish 100 hubs within 1 month when I joined HubPages, despite knowing that it's unbelievable. I ended up with only 14 hubs in TWO months since joining lol.

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Wowtgp, you are so fast... I thought I just published it a second ago, LOL. Thanks for your support. Aim for quality, then you can slowly work on quantity.

      I have 18 hubs in 6 weeks, which is not an awful lot, considering that I'm retired. This is mainly due to my health, but I believe you're holding a full-time job which consumes most of your time.

      The video at the bottom teaches a lot... I've part of the transcript written out under the section, "The Older-Generation Personal Development Gurus Had It All Wrong", in quotes. That's the essence of this hub.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have written about this before in regards to writers....knowing your writing goals, having a plan to achieve them, and then the determination to follow through....but as you say, if you are not passionate about writing then you might as well be a garbage collector. LOL Very informative and right on my friend.

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      "Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for." -- Mark Twain

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      " If your ladder to success is leaning against the wrong wall, it doesn't matter how hard you work, or what goals you set. It is doomed to failure, even before you lift a finger."

      I love the idea of making a scrapbook of articles...You have fresh ideas, Walter...I like your style. Voted UP and UABI!

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Thanks for dropping by, Marcoujor.

    • StoneCircle profile image

      Susan McLeish 4 years ago from Rindge, NH

      I am glad I found this hub. I have been searching for a very long time what my "purpose" is in this lifetime. I have job hopped for many years, but I have not found one that I can say I enjoyed.

      You have made me think about my approach to what my goal really is. I hope I can get one step closer by trying the advise this hub offers.

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      StoneCircle, I was in building construction, which I didn't like, so I left for my MBA. Upon graduation in the mid-1980s, the world was in deep recession and I applied for any job and landed up in human resources, which I was stuck for the rest of my working life.

      If you know what your passion is, then the details doesn't really matter how you go about doing it. The most important thing is to make sure that your ladder is leaning against the right wall. Anything that you will do, even without being paid, is your passion.

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 3 years ago

      Another awesome hub, Walter Poon. Unfortunately, I've spent my life working to live. Not fun. I know I am passionate and opinionated, though I mostly keep a low profile (I think). Perhaps my passions will always be directed toward avocations. I don't know, but if I can change that by using your methods, then it's worth a try. I appreciate all the positive information you have in your hubs, which is why I'm happy to be one of your followers!

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Savvydating, thank you for dropping by and for your comments. As a matter of fact, most of my hubs are about what I would have done, if I were to have a chance to live all over again, LOL.

      My sister was a Chemistry teacher for her whole life. She never believes in any hocus-pocus, other than science, but since her retirement, she is so deeply into Chinese astrology, to the amazement of my mother and all of us. She swore that life is basically predestined, based on our birthdate. The accuracy of her character-readings has made me sit up. Is it really as true as she claims it to be?

      I was thinking about picking up Chinese astrology, if it really can help a lot of people identify their strengths and weaknesses, thereby helping them to find a smoother passage in life, rather than knocking against the wall most of the time. But when I think of the number of books that she has read so far, it really gives me cold feet, especially since I have no basic at all and no interest either, LOL.

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 3 years ago

      That's so funny. I used to do the same thing. I'd think, hmm... maybe I should study such and such, knowing deep down I didn't want to. Mostly, I believe that our passions show up in the subjects we enjoy reading and researching about. I do know that I like playing "devil's advocate" to a certain extent, which probably bugs people to no end. But since I've been taught to be polite, I have likely suppressed my talents. Yawn. Enough about me.

      Anyway, I just wanted to mention that I am voting this hub up and I think you probably should not study Chinese astrology, since you're not really "feeling it." ;)

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Savvydating, something is egging me. I might well prove Chinese astrology wrong, LOL.

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