Tobe Brockner

Why Setting Goals Leads to Failure

“You’re easily fat enough to win this thing,” my wife told me.

I looked at her quizzically, not sure I heard her right.

“I mean, you know what I mean,” she said a little flustered at this point. “I’m not insulting you, just saying you know how to lose weight and can lose enough in the next 7 weeks to win the contest. The grand prize is a paid trip to Kauai.”

Now she had my attention. We had just traveled to Kauai the year before for our 20 year anniversary and I fell in love with the place. The contest she was referring to was an online weight loss challenge she had found. 

I read into the details a little more and found out that the challenge was 7 weeks long and they provided meal plans, grocery lists, workout plans, an online community, and more. I figured this was something I could do.

And she was right. I was fat enough to lose enough weight during the 7 weeks to win. But could I do it?

I set that as my goal. I was going to win this contest.

During that 7 weeks I stuck to the plan with more compliance than I believed was possible for me. I did everything they said and even though I would slip up occasionally, I pretty much stayed the course. Over the 7 week time period that the challenge ran I lost nearly 30lbs and submitted my information (including time-stamped before and after pictures) and crossed my fingers.

A few days later they announced the winners. I was selected as the male winner of the challenge and awarded the grand prize, the trip to Kauai! I had done it. I had reached my goal.

At this point in my life everything going around me was burning to the ground. I had just shut my business down, I was in debt up to my eyeballs, my wife and I were struggling (in large part because of the chaos I brought to our marriage), I wasn’t really making any money, I had just lost 30lbs, but I was still overweight and unhealthy, and I was coping with a crushing depression and feelings of hopelessness.

So, while the weight loss challenge was a nice reprieve and served as a distraction for what was going on in my life at the time, it couldn’t hide the fact that I was in a very dark place mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Once I reached that goal that I had set for myself, I realized that I was going to go back to the way I was before. After all, I had “arrived” so to speak and completed the goal. I had nothing else to work for.

Now, at this point a lot of people would recommend to just set another goal. But, I knew that this was a temporary solution to a much deeper problem. Reaching my goals wasn’t necessarily the problem here. I have proven that I can reach my goals when I really put my mind to it.

But what about lasting change? Could I figure out a way to not simply create more goals to accomplish, but to design a life I wanted to live?

That was the big question and it plagued me night and day. I was desperate and looking for answers. I wasn’t really sure what to do or even where to turn.

I felt out of balance with my life. Nothing seemed to work for me and although I would have these flashes of accomplishment in certain things (like losing a bit of weight, having a great week of communication with my wife, making some money on a product or service I had launched), none of them would have a lasting effect.

I realized that I needed to do something radically different. 

A New Way to Think About Goals

As well as achieving goals had historically worked for me there were two issues with it as far as I could tell. First, as I mentioned, my goals were finite, with a defined beginning and end, therefore the results of that achievement were always temporary. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they were much too tactical in nature and generally only focused on one area of my life at a time. As I wrote here, that came with its own set of challenges.

My solution then, was to create a future-casted vision for how I wanted my life to look in 5 years. It included all 6 life areas: health, wealth, relationships, career/business, self-development, and lifestyle. By working diligently towards each of these areas, I was able to create a much more balanced and fulfilling life.

I still had goals, but they were now under the larger umbrella of a vision for my life. This helped me refocus my attention on the bigger picture - and the strategy for getting there - and less on the time/results based tactics/goals.

This shift in how I viewed achievement and fulfillment has changed everything for me. It not only helps me take consistent action towards the goals that will change my life, but also provides me a really good WHY for doing so. It helped me change from simply completing a series of events to creating an actual life I would be proud of based on lasting change.

If you find yourself on the rollercoaster of setting goals, achieving them, and then sliding back into old habits then try this exercise...

Write out how you would like your life to look in 3-5 years for each of your 6 life areas  - health, wealth, relationships, career/business, self-development, and lifestyle - in great detail. Be a specific as you can and try not to think one-dimensionally (i.e. for health just writing down an ideal weight...talk about what you look like, how you feel, how much body fat you have as a percentage, how you eat, etc.)

Really spend some time with this and create a vision that is from your wildest dreams. Don't inhibit yourself...just write it all out. See how it makes you feel, see how it makes you want to strive to be that person you have created in your mind's eye. And when you are ready to make it a reality, comment below and let me know that you're ready for change. I'll contact you with the rest of the story.


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Tobe Brockner

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