3 Reasons People Give Up on Their Goals (and How To Overcome Them)

If you find yourself struggling to accomplish your goals or create sustainable achievement, there’s a good reason: improvement is hard. But that doesn’t mean you should accept defeat. Instead, drill down into the three root causes of goal abandonment and seize the opportunity to overcome your obstacles. Explore these three common reasons for giving up on goals—and strategies you can use to conquer the urge to throw in the towel.

Reason #1: It takes longer than planned

We all love a S.M.A.R.T. goal, but it’s discouraging when the “time-bound” part gets in the way. If your deadline is looming and achievement is nowhere in sight, you may just choose to call it a day. 


Success strategy: Set a schedule, not a deadline

Goals don’t exist in a vacuum — accomplishing them requires patience and discipline. Instead of a deadline, set a reasonable schedule that supports your development process. Shift your thinking from “I will become a subject matter expert in Area X by July 1,” to “I will dedicate three hours a week to studying Area X and measure my progress in July.”

Reason #2: There are too many priorities

Everything feels urgent. Your day-to-day obligations compete with your goals, your goals compete with each other, and you’re left juggling it all (while feeling defeated and overwhelmed). 


Success strategy: Zero in on one goal at a time

Have fewer goals. Seriously. One of the things preventing you from reaching any one goal is all your other goals. Focus on one thing at a time — select a single goal, and ignore the ten other things you think you need to achieve. You’ll get to them soon enough. 

Reason #3: The reward is fleeting  

When you accomplish a goal, you often discover that the results aren’t sustainable without ongoing work. The momentary satisfaction hit can fade quickly when you realize your goal has become a lifetime commitment.


Success strategy: Focus on systems, not outcomes

Goals may direct you, but systems generate real progress. If “generate $X in revenue” is your goal, focus on what you need to do (the system) to get you there, like your processes for marketing campaigns and client management. Make it about the day-to-day systems that sustain ongoing progress.

Insight into action: apply strategies at 3 levels

Apply these success strategies to support sustainable achievement at three levels:

  • For yourself: Bring concrete, achievable actions that support your goals into your day-to-day work.

  • For your team: Leadership is about helping others achieve their goals as well. Give your team members professional development opportunities, like coaching and leadership training.   

  • For your organization: Support organizational excellence with cross-departmental leadership programs and 1:1 coaching for executives. 


Powerful question: What factors cause you to give up on a goal? What could happen if you radically changed your idea of what goal achievement means? 


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