Some people find that no matter how well they set a goal – SMART, within their control and positive –  it always seems to be just out of reach.

Why does this happen? If you want something badly enough, and work really hard at it only to find it getting further and further out of reach, what on earth is stopping you?

I’ll tell you a secret.

You are.

When a goal seems to be slipping further and further away it means one of three things:

It’s not your goal

It’s not only young people who can get ‘railroaded’ into goals. Those of us who like to pause and reflect before we answer questions can often find that our friends, teachers (and coaches), parents and partners can develop a tendency to jump in and answer for us. So where goals are concerned I often come across people who are actually working towards somebody else’s goal which has been set for them. There is really very little chance of this goal being achieved unless you have some ‘buy in’ to the goal setting process in the first place and make sure you are in the driver’s seat and not just a passenger along for the ride to someone else’s goal!

It’s not what you really want

Even if you have set it for yourself, is the goal something you really want? Does it make your heart sing? Can you visualise yourself having achieved it? In that arena? On that podium? Medal in hand? Is the passion there?  In fact, let’s take you further into the future to a time when you are 99 years old, in a rocking chair, reflecting on your life. Thinking back to the moment that you achieved this goal – can you imagine all the hard work and wonderful experiences that went into making it real?  Because if you can’t do any of this, perhaps it’s a goal you have set because you think that’s what people expect of you, rather than something YOU really want.

You don’t believe it’s possible

OK so you have your goal and it makes your heart sing – but you never seem to get any closer. There’s always something which seems to get in your way and prevent you from moving forward towards that end reward. If feels like you’re moving one step forward and two steps back all the time. What’s happening here is that you don’t believe you can achieve it. It’s such a big goal and of course you’d love to achieve it if you could… but…

Here are some of the clues I have sometimes seen, where a person’s goal just stays beyond their reach.

  • “There are always too many people on the ice” so you can’t get a decent practice skate
  • You won’t be able to skate well because you’ve “just come back after an injury”
  • The free “always goes badly” because you’re “so tired by half way through”
  • Mum can’t get you to the gym in the week so you “can only do fitness on the weekends”

Have you noticed what’s going on? There’s always an excuse. Always a reason why you can’t do it.  And why it’s not your fault – the free programme IS after all, tiring. You may well have come back from an injury. It’s quite likely that Mum can’t be everywhere at your beck and call…

There can be a hundred and one reasons WHY you can’t achieve your goal. Not the one immediately in front of you nor the BIG goal on the horizon. Because after all, the BIG goal on the horizon depends on the smaller goals immediately ahead to lead you towards it.  It’s very possible that the size of your BIG goal freaks you out so much because it just seems so… well BIG. And unachievable.  That’s classic overwhelm and typically leads to procrastination. Just leaving stuff to everyone else or to the last minute because you just don’t know where to start with such a huge task.

Get proactive. Be determined to find a way

But if you REALLY want it and really BELIEVE you can do it, you will find a way to overcome these obstacles and get yourself some alternatives which will help break them down. The free is tiring? So build up your stamina. Set a mini goal around being able to reach the end of your free without gasping for breath. Run programmes back to back. Or just run! That will help your stamina. If ordinary people can run a marathon without being Mo Farah, you can skate a three or four minute programme right?  You’re back from an injury? Great – now you’ll be stronger and fitter than ever after a rest and you can set a plan to catch up to where you left off and go further. You can only do off-ice or fitness at weekends? Really? So there are no exercises you can get from your trainer which you can safely do at home during the week?

The one thing that is preventing you from achieving your goal is listening to that tiny voice inside which says you can’t do it. Instead of listening to the one which says you can. Once you start doubting, then no amount of hard work will help you get there and you’ll always have a host of very real reasons why. This is because you are actually focusing on not being able to achieve it. Your brain’s ‘Reticular Activating System’ (the filing clerk) kicks in and serves you up a whole host of evidence to show why you won’t be able to achieve that goal.

Your job is to listen instead to the voice that says “I can do this”. To focus on the reasons why you can achieve it. Make a list of what you need to do to get there, take ownership and take action!