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Why We Miss Our Goals

By: Edwin Bevens



Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar. You know exactly what you want to do. You have it all figured out. And then somewhere along the line, something happens. You’re not even sure what it was—all you know is the end result: whatever it was you were planning, it didn’t get done.

This problem is incredibly frustrating—and yet it also amazingly common. You are not alone. There are a variety of reasons we struggle to do what we mean to, and also several things you can do to help solve the problem.

Oftentimes, a wide range of issues get lumped together under the label “will power.” But while it may seem descriptive enough at first glance, there are other underlying problems to consider, too. The books “Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed an How We Can Stick to the Plan” by Francesca Gino and “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” by Chip and Dan Heath offer a different perspective.

There are some common themes in these books. First, we undermine our decision making by falling victim to confirmation bias. That is, instead of really looking for obstacles to our goals, we pay more attention to anyone or anything telling us that there are no problems. Then, when that very real problem gets in our way after all, we are shocked and surprised that we did not accomplish our goal. These problems might have been easily solved—if we had been more open to seeing them.

Second, we get in trouble when we let emotions play too big of a role. It’s all too easy to let a bad start to the day, some chance encounter or event that has no connection to our goals or business, block our thinking and our effort. Whether the emotions are positive or negative, they can override our logical analysis of an idea or decision.

Finally, there is a tendency to be overconfident, to trust too much in our own ability and bite off more than we can chew.

Taking on these many challenges can be difficult, but it is also vitally important to a business. A place to start is being aware of your emotions. They are less likely to take control of your decision-making if you are constantly evaluating yourself and weighing how your emotions are affecting decisions. You will be more likely to take a step back and think about something longer, preventing rash, in-the-heat-of-the-moment actions.

The Heaths also have a great idea for improving your decision making to help you achieve your goals. When it comes time for a decision, consider what you would recommend to someone you are very close to. Assuming you would give good, rational advice to someone else, then that should be good advice for yourself, too.

Finally, go to a wide range of sources for information when you are looking for help making a decision. Don’t just go to one place, or one particular kind of place. Get different perspectives, different viewpoints, different thought processes. Then make sure you consider the biases of each source to help you make your decision.

And above all, don’t beat yourself up. When you fail, or when you don’t do what you mean to, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an inevitable part of life, and should be treated as an opportunity to learn, not a disaster.

Published: March 8, 2013

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Edwin Bevens

Edwin Bevens is Editor of SmallBizClub.com, and specializes in communications for Tarkenton Companies in a variety of media. He develops, produces, and maintains content across a wide range of channels. With a background in journalism and publishing, Edwin focuses on helping small business owners find the right match of voice, audience, and medium for every message.Connect with him on

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