Achieving Your Goals: Six Stumbling Blocks and How to Overcome Them

“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” –Michael Korda, English-American writer and former editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster.

Lest you defer your dreams until they “dry up like a raison in the sun,” per Langston Hughes, set time limits on them—this turns them into goals. But even then, it’s not always easy to stay on track. As John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Life can easily derail your goals, no matter how well-arranged or honestly intended.

In your working life, goals are essential to maintaining and maximizing productivity. It’s easy to get so busy just doing that you look up and realize the brass rings you’re ostensibly reaching for seem as far away Saturn’s rings. There are many reasons this may occur, but in my career, I’ve observed six main ways your goals can be derailed:

  1. Failure to document. One reason you take notes in school is to help internalize the facts the teacher presents you with. That’s when true learning occurs. So, take notes at work, too—and not just in meetings. Instead of letting your day control you, document your goals in detail. Not only does this help firm them up in your mind, but you can review them weekly and monthly.

  2. Lack of engagement. If you don’t care about your work, you won’t produce as much or as well as you might, and your goals will more easily break down. A pervasive lack of engagement, where you can’t stand the job or the people you work with, or where you feel woefully inadequate for some reason, can easily result in failure to engage. If you can’t change jobs, find some aspect of your job you like, learn to love it, and expand that love to other job aspects.

  3. Over-focusing. Concentrating on a just few pixels of the big picture may leave you ­too tightly focused to see where you, the team, and the company are headed. If you take it too far, you’ll completely lose the plot. Step back and look at the big picture regularly, so you can get back on the right page.

  4. Failure to take responsibility. If you don’t take responsibility to achieve your own goals, no one else will. Sure, your team members may have some responsibility for the tasks involved, especially if you’re in charge. Your supervisor may have some responsibility to keep the team focused on key initiatives. But if you fail to take your work goals in hand and direct them personally, most simply won’t materialize.

  5. Poor planning has killed more work goals than anything else. When the path is clear and short, you need only a target to aim at; but that’s rare. First, you’ll need to uncover the obstacles you’re facing and determine how to handle them. This includes determining how needs to be involved and often over-communicating, so you won’t have misunderstandings. Without prior planning, you won’t know where to go or how much to do each day, and your results may prove inconsistent.

  6. Trying to do too much. It’s easy to overcommit. You can overcome this tendency somewhat by delegating whatever work you can. However, usually it involves a culling of the non-valuable and unimportant. You can’t keep adding to the top of the pile without taking anything off the bottom. Otherwise, you’re stuck with focusing on what’s due right now, and you never have time to plan or set goals. When you’re back on your feet, reprioritize your work until it’s more realistic and goal-oriented.

What Matters Most

Even if you have done everything above, remind yourself occasionally to take a new look at your goals. It’s worth the time it takes to review your progress, so you can make any corrections while they’re still small. It’s the big corrections, caused by compounding of months or years of wandering, that really cost you.


About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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  1. Avatar Barry Hall says:

    Many thanks Laura for a great post. — Barry from the UK.

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