goals "goal setting" results performance, Why goal setting doesn’t work

Why goal setting doesn’t work

January 31st, 2023 Posted by Life Coaching, Performance Coaching

Are you part of the 55% of people who set new year’s resolutions but fails to keep them 12 months down the line, or do you follow through and make the changes that enable you achieve your goals? Why is it that the vast majority fail to achieve their goals; 11% even give up in less than a month. Here are a few tips for why goal setting doesn’t work and a few to help you smash your goals for the year!

Meet Simon. Simon has been working in the same role for 4 years. He has become bitter and complains a lot. He has lost all motivation for his work and is actively disengaged, often attempting to drag others down with him. His relationship with his long-time partner is on the rocks and has been for the last 8 months; they’ve learned to tolerate each other. He’s out of shape and complains that he doesn’t have the time to exercise “what with work an’ all” and justifies the hours of television he watches as needed stress relief. He will tell you that goal setting doesn’t work because he’s tried it in the past. Over time, as his attempts to break out of his rut have failed miserably, he has lost confidence in himself. This year, however, things are different and he decides to give it another go. He sits down and thinks through all the things he wants to accomplish during the year, such as:

  • Run a marathon (he’s never done that before and wouldn’t it be awesome to cross that finish line!)
  • Leave his crummy job.
  • Have more disposable income.
  • Have a better relationship with his partner.


Satisfied with his goals for the year he gets straight into things. The next morning he gets up early and puts on his running gear. The half an hour run was tougher than he thought it would be but at least it’s a start. Next he makes breakfast for his partner followed by jumping on Seek to find a new job. A couple of hours later he’s exhausted and all he wants to do is sit in front of the television, which he promptly does before falling asleep for the afternoon. The next day he is sore from the run he doesn’t have much motivation to do anything. He beats himself up a little and decides to pull together his CV but, after such a poor night’s sleep he doesn’t have the concentration or patience to finish it. He ends up back in front of the television where his goals drift further away with every episode of Harry and Meghan.

So how did it all go so horribly wrong? Let’s explore some of the common pitfalls that tripped Simon up:

  • He didn’t write them down.
  • He imagined how great it would be to have already attained his goal without committing to any long-term action. He was in love with the idea more than his desire to accomplish it.
  • He bites off more than he can chew and can’t swallow it! Another way of saying this is he’d start off with great intentions but quickly run out of steam – he had no plan!
  • He framed his goals in the negative; for example: “I don’t want to be working in the same crummy job this time next year.”
  • His goals aren’t aligned to his values (those things that are important to him), therefore, he didn’t prioritise his goals over other things that are going on in his life. It’s highly likely that Simon doesn’t even consciously know what his values are. One thing that might be evident is that he values instant gratification and the desire for comfort over stressing himself a little for a better future.


Sadly, Simon had no chance of succeeding in making the important changes in his life and it’s likely he’ll continue to blame circumstances and others for his inability to succeed, and even be happy.

Atarangi has always had a different approach to goal setting. She is what you might refer to as a rising star. Success and achievement tend to come easy to Atarangi, or so people think; they often describe her as a natural or lucky. However, Atarangi doesn’t feel like she’s a natural or lucky at all. She’s grateful for the opportunities that have come her way and equally she gives herself credit for often seeking them out. She has a clear plan about where she wants to go and the type of person she wants to be; armed with her vision of herself and her future she prioritises these activities, and she works hard towards achieving them.

This is how Atarangi approaches goal setting:

  • She writes her goals down and reviews them every morning.
  • She makes public what she wants to achieve (creating external accountability with those she trusts).
  • She works with her work team on collective goals and shows up for the team even when it’s hard. She does this for her professional goals and has a group of friends outside of work she leans on for motivation and support; again through collective goals.
  • She commits to a time and a place for the particular action even going as far as scheduling it in her calendar.
  • She recognises she’s in it for the long game and breaks her goals into smaller chunks; like 10 – 20 minutes a day and tracks her progress along the way.
  • Her daily and weekly goals are aligned to her values and to her higher career and personal goals.


Armed with these simple strategies Atarangi makes gradual progress on a daily and weekly basis that builds momentum and adds up over time.

Don’t be a Simon, be an Atarangi and start to take ownership of your career, and your professional and personal development. Follow Atarangi’s guidelines and you’ll be well on your way!


If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more as an individual or as a team, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.

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