How to FAIL at Your Goals



Over the holidays, many of us spent some time making New Year’s resolutions and likely reflected on the 2015 resolutions that were unmet, or altogether forgotten. As you read this post, I ask that you keep track of whether you’ve done the following things that almost guarantee goal failure. When you come across a tip that describes your goal-setting habits, jot down a note. It’s my hope that by recognizing the mistakes we’ve made in the past, we will be better prepared to conquer the future. By proactively preventing setbacks and carefully bypassing pitfalls, we will look back on 2016 with satisfaction…and with a brand new set of goals to chase!

Without further ado, here’s the surefire recipe for…failure!

Set Lackluster Goals

The first step to failing at a goal is to make sure it isn’t compelling in the slightest. When you talk about a goal, you should yawn. When you think about it, your mind should wander to a thousand other things. And if it were tangible and could be held in your hands…wait…you wouldn’t want to hold it because it would be the complete antithesis of all cute cats and micro pigs that have gone viral on YouTube.

A successful goal is just the opposite. It would make your eyes light up when you talked about it. Your heart would start beating just a little faster when you thought about it. If you could hold it in your hand, it would glitter and glow and stimulate all five senses (an iPhone on steroids comes to mind).

You get the picture! To ensure goal failure, make it boring, burdensome, and to really seal the deal, make it because someone else is pressuring you to.

Have Too Many Goals

Not only should your goals be underwhelming, they should also be numerous. While “numerous” varies from person to person, it’s safe to say that more than seven goals in the course of a year is generally unattainable. Having just three to seven goals is manageable for most people, while anything more than that often feels like trying to navigate a unicycle through four lanes of traffic…blindfolded.

Make Your Goals Abstract

Now that you have a lot of lackluster goals, make sure they’re really, really vague. Instead of deciding you want to lose 15 pounds, just say you want to lose weight. And rather than saying you want to complete the first draft of a children’s novel, “write a book” will suffice. Want to organize your closet and donate old clothes to a charity by May 1st? Don’t say that. Just say “declutter closet,” and you’ll be sure to fail. Specific goals will only lead to success.

Make Sure Your Goals Don’t Scare You

To fail at a goal, make sure it isn’t frightening. It shouldn’t make you doubt whether you have what it takes to reach it. It shouldn’t make you feel a smidgen of uncertainty as you weigh the potential risks involved – there should be no risks! Risk implies you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone, and that is a no-no for failure.

Remaining comfortable and complacent will never enable growth, which leads to goal attainment. Think back to your greatest moments of growth: What was the process like? Was it easy? My guess is it wasn’t. Growth rarely is. So to stick with the same ol’, same ol’ and kick your goals to the curb, just stay put.

Compelling goals take you outside your comfort zone

Don’t Have Measurable Goals

Don’t record anything. If you’ve set an abstract “write-a-book” goal, don’t pay any attention to how many pages you write each week. Don’t have daily word-count goals to shoot for. If you want to be able to do a pull-up without the assistance of a machine or a partner, don’t record your workouts or keep up with how many days you’re training per week. Doing so would give you the advantage of tracking your progress. That’s no way to fail!

Don’t Write Your Goals Down

This goes hand in hand with the above tip. You’d be 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down, so do yourself a favor and don’t do it![1]

An idea is just a dream until you write it down

Don’t Set Deadlines

If your current job doesn’t require you to meet any deadlines, then think back to your school days when there was a deadline for everything. This created a sense of urgency and motivated you to be diligent, disciplined, and to stay on track lest you, well, fail. To fail at a goal, words like “discipline” and “motivation” need to be absent from your vocabulary.

Deadlines also help the successful balance their workload. They allow people to reach their goals by taking small steps toward them rather than brash, ill-advised leaps. And every time they achieve a miniature goal, they feel absolutely incredible and all the more motivated to soldier on.

Don’t Have a Plan of Action

Failed goals only have one step: make the goal. There is no plan after that, which, needless to say, produces dismal results.

Successful goal setting involves not only setting the primary goal, but forming a concrete plan of attack. For instance, a successful goal setter might decide she wants to “run three times a week for twenty minutes.” After the goal has been set, she will go to her calendar and decide a couple of things: which days she’s going to run, what time she’s going to run,where she’s going to run, and even where her alternative running location will be should it be rainy or freezing outside. Her specific goal became even more specific after her schedule was in place and she could visualize just how her road to success would unravel.


Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” To fail at a goal, wait until you’re great to start pursuing it. If you’re your own worst critic like the rest of us, you’ll be waiting a very, very, very long time.

Keep Your Goals Out of Sight

If, for some strange reason, you did write down your goals, have no fear – there’s still hope for failure! The idiom “out of sight, out of mind” perfectly applies here because as long as you cannot see your goals posted around you, say on your mirror or the fridge or taped to your computer, you won’t make the mistake of remembering to pursue them. There’s a good reason for the overabundance of billboards, commercials, and pop-up ads all around us: they get our attention! Successful goal-setters keep their written goals in plain view so they’re always reminded and inspired to make daily progress.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek “how-to” blog post! Please leave a comment or tweet me @dandersontyler – I’d love to hear about your goals and your journey to reaching them!

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[1] (accessed January 22, 2016)

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