Oh no! I stopped working toward my goals

We’ve all been there. At some point, each of us has had the best of intentions but, for one reason or another, we’ve come to a grinding halt.

Let’s explore why this might be, and what we can do about it. After all, if your goal really is important to you then it’s just as important to look at ways to increase your success in achieving that goal.

Three reasons why we don’t follow through with our goals (and ways to start making progress)

Reason 1: Jumping too far aheadWe get really excited about our shiny new goal, or we believe that changing our behaviour will be easy­. So, we take a great leap forward, only to find that the new action or behaviour is completely unstainable…and we drop the ball completely. Invariably, this approach reduces our confidence and can be self-defeating and unsustainable—just like a crash diet. It’s also a path that’s likely to be full of stress and arguments.

Alternative: Take the path of least resistanceSet your first action(s) as something so small there will be no resistance whatsoever.

For example: you want to increase your financial and personal education and decide you are going to read one book a month. That’s going from reading zero books to 12 in a year. The success rate for this dramatic change is likely to be pretty low, so instead, set a daily commitment to read just five pages a day. This sounds doable, yes? Committing to just five pages allows time to digest what you’ve read, and knocks out the excuse of ‘I don’t have time’. Believe it or not, reading five pages daily equates to about eight books a year! Plus, you are creating a habit of learning and development—the basis of all progress.

Let’s say you have decided to save $12,000 a year. So, you work out the weekly amount and set up an automated payment into your savings account of $231 per week. Sounds logical enough, and indeed I have suggested this for many people in the past. But what if you haven’t saved before? You may find yourself wondering ‘…but how do I go from saving $0 to $231 every week??’ Again, take the path of least resistance. Decide on the lowest amount you can save that offers little to no resistance, even if it is only $5 a week. This is more about starting and developing the habit of saving than the end result.

This approach will give you time to make some decisions about your expenses so that you can gradually increase your savings. After every six weeks or so, you can increase your savings rate—by again choosing an amount that offers the path of least resistance. As long as it’s an increase, it doesn’t matter how tiny the amount. As you start to appreciate and enjoy watching your savings grow, you’ll get used to it being there, and your confidence will increase.

Remember, if you are single, you’ll need to find a balance between the practical actions you need to take and how much time and mental energy you have available to sustain your new habit. If you are a couple, you’ll need to find a balance that works for both of you. In either case, going full tilt ends the same way that all crash diets do. You crash! Instead, go for the slow burn, ignite the fire, and support and encourage yourself and each other.

Reason 2: ‘I forgot’ This is one I have heard so often over the years: ‘Oh, I was out shopping and I forgot about my list/budget…’, or ‘I forgot how much I had available to spend’, or ‘I forgot I was keeping track of X…’, or ‘I was caught up in the moment, and forgot about Y…’ etc etc etc.

Alternative: Set up reminders – (but don’t bother wit­h reminders that say don’t do it!)Set reminders with positive core statements—phrases that highlight your core why, what’s really important to you, and/or the big dream you are striving to achieve. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a credit card-sized card, write your core statement on it, and place it in front of your spending card in your wallet.
  • Create a screen saver on your mobile device and computer with your core statement or an image that will remind you of your goal.
  • Apply the path of least resistance (as mentioned above).
  • Schedule automatic reminders into your diary or calendar.
  • Automate wherever possible—if you can set up automatic reminders or transfers, then do so!

Reason 3: Applying all the practical stuff without changing your money mindsetOften, we start something new on a wave of excitement and inspiration. We decide on an outcome we want, and put some actions in place to get started, just like that! BUT, somewhere along the way we start listening to our own crazy self-talk that just knocks the stuffing out of us, slows us down, or maybe even stops us all together.

Alternative: Minding your mindYour thoughts and emotions are vital to your success, especially around money. After all, our thoughts and feelings are often the first things that motivate us to set new goals, or in fact, to attempt anything that we do. Our thoughts and emotions around money can be positive or negative­—and many people don’t even realise that they have negative thoughts around money.

Your relationship with money is often reflected in the practical outcome of your financial life. For instance, amassing credit card debt or personal loans, not saving for the future, living from pay to pay, having strained cashflow, needing to consolidate debt, or having arguments with your partner.

This reflection is particularly relevant if you find yourself ‘playing on repeat’ in any one of these areas. It feels that, no matter what you try, you get a little progress but revert back, never really getting anywhere. You get the picture.

After 20 years in the financial industry, I have continually seen that if a person’s thoughts and emotions around money don’t align with their personal values and goals, then they’ll struggle to make progress. All the practical guidance in the world won’t be enough to get you off that repeating cycle of forward/backward progress, unless your money mindset is right.

More often than not, people who commit to their personal and financial (money) mindset development have more success and consistency in progressing toward their goals.