Why Do Some Goals Fail?

Have you ever set a goal or made a new year’s resolution where you were pumped and excited at first, then your momentum fizzled out and you lost interest in your end goal? This happens to the best of us! Some goals fail because they don’t meet five necessary conditions for success.

Setting goals is an absolute best first step. But setting goals doesn’t actually guarantee you’ll get anything accomplished. While there is something to be said for “winging it” or “let’s just see what happens” because we are taking the initial steps of action, forward progress won’t continue without a strategy.

Do you have trouble achieving your goals? Try the assessment in this blog post by Kate Johnston |Author & Story Coach to see if you’re setting actionable, strategic goals that will help you move forward with your overall plans.

Not all goals are substantial enough for a full-blown strategy, and they will fail before you can make much headway.


1.Goal has no strategy propelling it.

2.Goal is unspecific

3.Goal is unreachable.

4. Goal doesn’t fit your internal or external forces.

5.Goal isn’t followed through.



-Strategy: Once you decide on a goal, figure out how you’re going to take action on it. Some goals will require daily action while others might only need weekly or monthly action. Mark down your goal in whatever scheduling method you use. Each time you take action, write a comment to yourself so that you have updated notes. Make sure you assess the status of the goal on a regular basis, to keep yourself on track.

-Unspecific, vague goals are WEAK goals and will not stand up to the test of time, pressure, or stress. STRONG goals are detailed and specific. To make a strong goal, you need to give it structure (WHAT), rules/boundaries (HOW), a timeline (WHEN), and a reason (WHY) it is important.


I’m going to write today! (WEAK)

Yes, while this does tell us the actual goal (WHAT), and provides a deadline (WHEN), what it fails to do is specify the HOW and WHY.

Try this instead:

I’m going to write the third chapter of my sci-fi novel (WHAT/HOW) tonight after dinner (WHEN) so I can have it ready for my writers group on Friday. (WHY)

-You’ve set a difficult goal, something that is beyond your current skill, knowledge, or budget. This kind of goal will remain difficult unless you break it down into multiple, actionable, realistic steps.

-Knowing your internal and external forces will help you design goals that fit your personality, mood, strengths, and abilities. If you don’t have a strong enough grasp on yourself and how you work or how you approach life, take a personality assessment, ask a friend or family member, or journal out your thoughts and questions. Don’t waste time struggling with goals that aren’t made for you! You can actually impede your productivity levels, even though you’re probably working extremely hard.

– Goals require actionable steps. The goal in itself won’t make us try to achieve it. Rather, it’s our actions and behavior with the goal that make the goal possible, achievable. Assessing your goal status on a regular basis (how often is dependent on the type of goal you’re trying to achieve) is considered the ultimate action step. If you don’t know how your goal is holding up under the shifts and demands of Life, then how will you know if you’re even heading in the right direction anymore? Stay on top of your goals by following through with attention, assessment, adjustment, and action (the four A’s of productivity).

5 conditions for a savvy goal

1. Strategic

2. Specific

3. Reachable

4. Personal

5. Actionable

Example: I’m going to write 500 words in my novel (WHAT/HOW) this afternoon (WHEN) so I can work up to my weekly word count of 2000! (WHY)

Did we fulfill all five conditions for a savvy goal?

1. Strategic – the plan is clear and comprehensive

2. Specific – what/how/when/why is answered

3. Reachable – sounds very doable

4. Personal – the mention of weekly word count is personal–anything that the goal-setter deems important would be considered important.

5. Actionable – action steps make up the path toward the goal

When you design your goals, try to apply the five conditions to help make them savvy goals. Then tack on a reward or consequence to level up your commitment. These are the kinds of goals you will want to tackle every day!

Yes, there will be times that you can’t tend to your goals, but that’s okay! As long as you build in enough of a window to get your goals accomplished, you won’t fall behind.

Stay tuned next week to talk about how to make a goal-oriented schedule! Be prepared to assess your natural writing forces to help you sketch an outline for a whole week of goals!

How about you? Have you ever set a goal that was a complete and utter #fail? What went wrong? How did you fix it? Can you think of other reasons some goals fail?

Have a writerly day!

Check out the first post of this blog series, Marching Toward Goal Achievement to learn about Goal Tiers and how you can easily be productive every day!

10 thoughts on “Why Do Some Goals Fail?”

  1. I use these kinds of strategies when my son is working on his homework. Especially the reward part, LOL. But we all need rewards, don’t we? Very effective method you’ve laid out for everyone, Kate. Nicely done!

    • Rewards work like a charm! We just have to be honest with ourselves, or find someone to hold us accountable. Finding a partner to check in with once a week or however often you need is often really helpful too. 🙂 And if they like to bake cookies, even better!

    • Thank you, Dorothy!

      This is my nerddom revealing itself. 🙂 I love writing schedules and plans and illustrating pictures to help me see different ways to get things done. I also love analyzing my behavior and habits to see how I can improve on any current approaches I’m using, which is where the natural writing forces originated. It helped that I studied psychology in college. 🙂

  2. I remember writing a New Year’s Goal post, highlighting how to create goals that were achievable. I used exactly what you outline as weak goals–nonspecific. Ha! It is much more achievable to say “write today” than “write 500 words”. I supposed it depends upon if the goal is to achieve a goal or move yourself foward.

    So complicated…

    • A lot of it comes down to how badly we want to make the goal happen, too. That’s one of the hardest hurdles for people–summoning the inner dragon to charge forth. 🙂

    • Being flexible is hard sometimes, so it’s great to see that you’re able to shift things around to allow for optimum productivity!

  3. I needed to read this today! I have set a few goals recently that I have not yet achieved and have been beating myself up over it. I think I need to review and reword a couple of them. Thank you!

  4. I’m with Sherry – this post came as a well-needed explanation of what I’ve been doing wrong with some of my goals, and what I can do moving forward to make it possible to achieve them. Thanks for sharing, Kate!

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