Ten Ways to Make Sure You Fail to Hit Your Goals

By Ali Luke

January 11, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Got any goals at the moment? Yep, me too. The problem is, a lot of big goals sound like pretty hard work – things like losing weight, getting fit, saving more money, quitting smoking

Perhaps it’s easier just to shoot yourself in the foot before you start. So here’s ten great ways to make sure that you fail to hit your goals. Manage three or four of these, and you’re on the fast-track to failure. Hit all ten, and you might as well not bother getting out of bed any more.

  1. Set Vague Goals
    If you don’t know what “success” looks like, you’re bound to fail. Instead of resolving to lose 40lbs before your next birthday, resolve to “get thin”. Instead of deciding that you’ll save $50/month, tell yourself that you need to “have savings”.

When your goals are vague and fuzzy, it’s easy to put off taking action and it’s impossible to quantify success or failure. If you do manage to make strides towards them, you’ll never know if you’ve really achieved your goal.

  • Have a List Longer Than Your Arm
    One of the easiest ways to fail at anything is to split your attention between dozens of different things. So don’t pick one or two big, life-changing goals: tackle everything at once. When you inevitably run out of energy and motivation, you’ll be only a few short steps from total failure.

Bonus points if several items on your list are going to clash, like “go to the gym every evening and weekend” along with “start my own side business around my day job”.

  • Don’t Tell Anyone
    When you talk about your ambitions, you feel accountable to other people. If your sister knows you’re on a diet, you won’t want to eat that slab of chocolate cake in front of her. If your friend knows you’re going to look for a new job, he’ll ask you how the search is going. 

By keeping totally quiet about your goals, you’re free to fail without anyone knowing. Plus, you won’t get any offers of help or support.

  • Refuse to Get Help
    Most goals have been tackled before – successfully – by other people. There are books, blogs, forums, clubs, all sorts of resources that could help you. Avoid these like the plague – they just might point you away from failure and towards success.

Take on the biggest, hardest, challenges you can find, then tell yourself that you’re being weak if you look for help. Be stubbornly independent, and stride as fast as you can along that path to failure.

  • Give Up as Soon as You Slip Up
    Ate a cookie while on a diet? Skipped one day at the gym? Splurged on a latte and donuts when you should’ve been saving $5/day? 

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief and tell yourself that you might as well give up now. That one little slip up is a great excuse for total failure. Sure, you could shrug it off and get straight back on track – but that sounds like hard work.

  • Set Yourself Unreasonable Deadlines
    You know that deadlines are handy – they help you focus on your goal. Did you know that they’re also a great way to push yourself towards failure? 

Make sure your deadlines are unreasonable. Don’t be too blatant about this or you won’t take them seriously enough. Instead of telling yourself that you’ll write a 100,000 word novel this month, tell yourself it’ll be done in six months. Instead of trying to lose 30lbs in four weeks, aim for eight weeks. Those deadlines are still unreasonable – so pretty soon, it’ll be clear you can’t reach them. Then you can just give up.

  • Assume That It’ll Be Different This Time
    This isn’t the first time you’ve decided to lose weight. You’ve tried before – probably multiple times. Each time, stuff happened – it was someone’s birthday, there were cookies in the office, your partner wanted to get take-out… 

Instead of learning from what hasn’t worked before, insist that this time will just be “different”. Assume that you’ll suddenly have tons of will power and that nothing will happen to knock your plans. Of course, in reality, you’ll face the same challenges as usual – and you’ll be perfectly ready to fail, again.

  • Set Goals That You “Should” Do
    Instead of picking goals which are meaningful to you, look for ones which society has decreed that you “should” do. You’re 10lbs overweight, so you “should” lose weight (never mind that you’re comfortable and happy at your current size). You haven’t got a degree, so you feel you “should” go back to college. And so on… 

By settling on goals that you don’t care about, you’ll be on the track to failure before you’ve even begun.

  • Never Make an Action Plan
    You’ve probably heard the old adage that “failing to plan means planning to fail.” It’s really true! By making sure that you don’t plan at all, you’ve got a great chance of failing. 

The only planning you should do is to set an unreasonable deadline (see #6). Don’t break your goal into milestones, don’t set yourself specific targets and actions – just let the whole thing seem huge, overwhelming and unreachable. You’ll be a failure within the week.

  • Start Everything on a Monday
    The best time to start a new diet or quit smoking is on Monday, right? Of course, you’ll almost certainly be tired from a busy weekend, stressed out by work, or Monday will turn out to be inconvenient for some reason … so you’ll put it off till the next week. 

By insisting that you must start your new diet, exercise routine, small business and reading plan on Monday, you not only set yourself up for instant failure, you also have a pretty good possibility of making life difficult for the people around you. What better way to start off another week of failing?

Have you come up with an inventive way to fail at your goals? Have you tried any of the failure tips above? Or are you planning to avoid failure this year? Let us know in the comments…

Written on 1/11/2011 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: jacobmetcalf
Ali Luke

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